Brian, 1986 Purchase a print of this image

Photograph a photographer, what do you get? An invitation for a dissertation on photographic papers and developers, that's what. So this is all Brian's fault:

The negative for this portrait was made on a good ol' film, Kodak Tri-X. A lot has been made of the 'new' technology films that were ballyhooed as replacements for Tri-X, but working with this old negative after years of working with these new films has taught me a valuable lesson: old ways may not always be the best ways, but they might be.

Present day photosensitive papers have been modified since the advent of the new films, too. They are made to match. The modern films have a strong tendency to yield excessive contrast, so the papers are tailored to reduce this. The result is they sometimes show reduced contrast in the highlights. This makes life difficult for workers who meticulously process to limit the highlight contrast of their negatives. Flat prints can result unless due care is exercised in the printing darkroom, too.

I have been working on Brian's portrait on modern paper lately. The results have been extremely pleasing, and show how our perception of character and personality is influenced by what we see.

The paper I have been using is called "Warmtone" and is made by the Ilford company. (They designate it MGW, for those of you who are so inclined.)

I have used Agfa WA, which is made for warm tone materials. Another is the venerable Ansco 120 formula, a soft contrast developer that yields a very long tonal range. Another developer I have tried with this portrait is one sold by Agfa for developing film: Rodinal. It also yields a very long tonal range, with a 'warmth' that is slightly cooler than 120, and noticeably deeper blacks.

The really interesting result is that when comparing the final prints, one receives a different impression of the person depicted. In reality, the print differences are very subtle. Inexperienced viewers need to have them pointed out. A slight shift in the 'color' of the gray comprising the image, from subtle reddish-gray-black to somewhat brownish-gray-black, changes the feeling we receive of the subject.

I conceive of it as the friendliness I feel from the face. Add a bit of warmth, or red, to the picture, and I perceive a more friendly, open person. Make the background deeper, darker, more hard-brown, and the face seems a little more tough, the personality a little more judgmental, the eyes a little more cold and shrewd. The posture changes from slightly diffident to standoffish and remote.

Of course all I'm pointing out here is the human propensity for visual information. We really are dominated by our visual systems. It is imperative for us to be aware of these facts about ourselves, and to make allowances for them. Change Brain minimally from ever so slightly reddish to brownish, and we feel differently. Change him to a hook-nosed Jew (like me!) or a yellow devil or a tourist attraction in friendly traditional garb, and we could get into real trouble.

Copyright Lloyd Erlick. All rights reserved.
SERIAL NUMBER: 8606-21-12067x
FILM: Kodak TX ('Tri-X'), 70 mm format, at EI 400.
EXPOSURE: f8 at 1/30 sec.
FILM DEVELOPMENT: Rodinal 1:50, 20 min, 20C, normal agitation.
LIGHTING: daylight.
CAMERA and LENS: Hasselblad ELM camera, Zeiss 120 mm f4 'Makro' lens.
Copyright Lloyd Erlick. All rights reserved.
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Copyright Lloyd Erlick. All rights reserved.