Russel Kwan

Much like a spider in a forgotten truck in a forgotten town in New Mexico, I find it very easy to become cozy and complacent in the safe embrace of the machine… in my case, the embracing machine is photography.

I don’t know what the spider does with her winters, but I usually spend my winters experimenting with methods near the limits of the machine, hoping to find an escape from its embrace.  Most often, a winter’s work yields a meager clutch of incremental improvements to existing methods, and sometimes, the yield is nothing at all.  This winter was different.

In December, one of my students showed me an article in an old Scientific American (Man-Kit Lam 1991), where a process the author named “Chromoskedesic” was described.  Mr Lam’s process involved the abuse of some (now out of production) photographic chemistry to produce camera-less, surprisingly coloured, abstract imagery with ordinary black and white printing paper.  His surprising colours resulted from creating differently sized silver particles which selectively reflect certain wavelengths (and therefore colours) of light – much like a diffraction grating.

My (not so original) idea is to adapt chromoskedesia to printing continuous-tone imagery.  The few prior attempts at this idea (that I can find) all seem to have run into the same technical roadblocks – the biggest one being the prints are unhappily dark, due to the fogging nature of the chemistry – a problem I have happily solved.  Almost all worldwide activity with chromoskedesia ceased when the necessary chemistry was discontinued, so the process today requires homebrewing.

“Emergence” represents my first happily bright prints, made with a homebrew two stage developer, solarization and dual split toning.  As these prints are the first of their kind, and the process is unrepeatable because there are chaotic, turbulent flow characteristics to the chemistry, “Emergence” will always be unique.

Today, my process has already evolved to a three-stage developer, which yields slightly brighter and more colourful prints, and a new project is already emerging – beyond the machine.

From here, I leave you to find the signs of emergence throughout this little triptych – from discovering the tiny hidden details, to feeling the metaphor of the pictures emerging from the surrounding chaotic flow (much like the process in my darkroom!) to the emergence of the process that created them.


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