The Doubles

Wendy Kwan

28 February 2007

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Recently I have been exploring the combination of two negatives to create a single print. My interest in image collage goes back a few years, when I thought the route to creating multiple layer images would be scanning colour slides, followed by digital manipulation. All was abandoned when I was drawn deeper into the tactility of the darkroom, and dedicated myself to learning to make quality silver prints. I have always felt a little restless sitting for long periods in front of a computer screen.

It finally occurred to me there was no harm in exploring the medium of collage, in the darkroom where I was most comfortable. In Feb 2006 I was in the midst of a “creative photography” course, trying to think a bit beyond my work to that point. I started to pour through pages of negatives, searching for possible companion images. I made preliminary test prints on cheap and easy to handle “RC” paper, and showed them to the photo class participants, where they were well received. Creation of our archival standard “FB” prints was the next challenge.

I quickly discovered the technical challenges of working with two negatives. Initially I “sandwiched” them together in the negative carrier, but found I preferred to control the contrast and exposure for each negative separately. This allowed a more creative approach, accounting for differing negative densities, dodging and burning each negative as desired, and bringing each image into play to just the desired amount. On the down side, this involved making the first exposure, storing the paper, setting up the next negative, and then bringing the paper back out for the second exposure. Organization is key, and it does get easier with practise!

I found my usual Ilford warmtone paper was not giving me the contrast or look I wanted, and now print my doubles on Oriental paper, followed by dual toning in sulphide and selenium.

My years of experience learning to make a good single negative print were vital to the technique of printing a “double”. These images are fun to work on, but a thorough understanding of darkroom technique is essential before trying to work with more than one negative.

I have started to make photographs with the doubles in mind. Consciously seeking objects, textures, and lines that I think may be specifically appropriate. Sometimes the simplest most spare photographs, underexposed, or purely textured images, combine well for treatment as doubles.

It’s just one more process to evolve with time! A few of my “doubles” can be viewed in our current on line gallery.


experimental photography techniques


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