Often I pull from older negatives to do demonstrations for my darkroom classes at the Bemis School of Art. By now, I have a couple go-to negatives that fit the demonstrations really well, and, I really just enjoy printing them each time I do it. For split-filter printing, I have a 35mm negative of the Tiber River in Rome, Italy. Split-filter printing is basically the sequential use of a high-contrast and a low-contrast filter to produce a print on variable contrast paper. It is a wonderful technique that allows me to control the density of the shadows separately from the highlights in my image.
For some cool Sabatier demos, I have wonderful negatives from Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia. Sabatier is a technique that allows me to get a part negative/part positive effect in my print. I continually use these negatives for Sabatier because I feel like the subject matter just fits the process so beautifully.
Oh, and a side note, that cemetery I mentioned in Savannah? Well, that is the one where the bird girl statue stood for years until the book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil was released. (Oh, and the book…way better than the movie!) The statue had to be moved because of the hoards of people coming to see it, and in classic human nature, vandalizing it along the way. And, who are Bonaventure Cemetery’s most famous guests? Well, that’s probably Johnny Mercer, the great singer-songwriter and Conrad Akin, the novelist and poet.
And, I love to use a negative I made in New York City with one taken in my very own backyard for a combination print demonstration. For this, I combine two negatives in printing for one final, interesting image.
So, to my point of this blog…hidden treasures. I have found that when I pull numerous sheets of negatives from years back, I often find new and wonderful images. And, sometimes, I sit and scratch my head and say, why didn’t you print that one already? Or, seriously, that’s a cool shot and it has been hidden all these years? Yep, for one reason or another, an image doesn’t make the cut, but then, years later, it does! With that, my sage advice to all my students out there – whether you’re shooting film or digital – don’t trash or delete images, as you might find 26 years later, you actually like the shot!
I’ve included one of those here to end this blog, because, well, it reminds me of growing up in Savannah, Georgia, where I spent hot summer nights drag racing down the long road into Bonaventure Cemetery with my friends and hanging out by the river’s edge. Late nights, teenage antics, and yes, we are the reason there is now a gate at the entrance!