COFFEE FIX FOR PHOTOS


After a break of a couple of years I decided to get back into analogue photography last autumn.

I was going on a trip to Belarus and wanted some instant photos to stick into my journal so picked up a second-hand Fuji instant camera and a couple of packs of instant film. I liked the results but not the price of the film. So, I went back online and got a Canon Ixus APS camera and some old film. The photos were amazing so I sold on the Fuji and kept the Canon.

I gave away my Praktika TL1000 a few years ago but had a hankering to go back to the pre-digital SLR age. A Pentax SFXn came my way for a few pounds so I stocked up with batteries and old Fomapan B & W film. I have since added a no brand plastic camera and several throwaway cameras to the analogue armoury. Each camera and each film is unique so I get some interesting results.

The downside of the analogue resurgence is the cost of developing film. It is a trek to find the developing shop which can do my APS and the B & W has to be sent away. The solution is the Caffenol Developing Process.

As is the way of things, all three sets of digital scales in my cupboard are malfunctioning and the thermometer cracked when placed in water.  I consulted the web and found a process using spoons on http://www.caffenol.org. Look up “recipes.”

Two stage developer

  • 240ml Water, 7 rounded Teaspoons of Instant Coffee (I used M&S)
  • 100ml Water, 4 Teaspoons of Washing Soda (I used DP washing soda)
  • 2 Teaspoons of Vitamin C (got the powder off the internet)

Equipment needed:

  • A dark room changing bag
  • A developing tank with spiral wheel
  • A pair of scissors
  • A can opener
  • A couple of spoons
  • A couple of jugs or bottles
  • A timer
  • Squeegee
  • A used film

Method:

First, put everything you need into the changing bag and close it up. Put your arms through the holes and spend some time fiddling about trying to get the cap off the film.. When you have done that get the film out. Snip off the shaped end bit which feeds into the camera spool. Attach newly shorn end into the niches on the reel. Spool entire film on. Snip off end bit attached to the cannister spool. All film should be nicely attached. If not, then the developing mix cannot really get to all parts and not all the film is developed. Place the reel onto the centre column and lock into developing tank with funnel lid firmly placed.

Put the Coffee mix into the developing tank, agitate once per second for the first minute. Leave it for another 2 minutes, agitate for 10 seconds every minute.

Pour out 100ml of Water and add the Washing Soda mix.

Agitate once per second for the first minute. Agitate for 10 seconds every minute for 9 minutes. Stand development for another 4 minutes.

Now wash out thoroughly several times. This gets rid of the coffee stuff.

When that is done you need to fix the image onto the film. You can use a salt solution or chemical fixer. Agitate several times and then pour out. Wash the film in water.

Unpack the film and get all the water off with a squeegee. Hang the film up to dry before scanning or printing.

Full information on the process is also to be found on:

https://fstop138.berrange.com/2014/09/caffenol-aka-developing-bw-film-w-instant-coffee/

I had a bash and the results were better than the first time…..

I failed to get the film onto the reel properly because I forgot to stick the scissors in the bag! And I could probably have done with timing the process better.

Here are my results:

LOMO_20170528_142740[1]LOMO_20170528_142942[1]

 

In Search of Virginia Woolf


Inspired by “Legacy: Photographs by Vanessa Bell and Patti Smith” at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in February, and embarrassed by not getting to the end of any of Woolf’s books or even the wonderful biography by Hermione Lee, I persuaded a friend to come with me to Rodmell for a day out.

rodmell

Rodmell was the get-away-cottage that Leonard and Virginia Woolf purchased in 1919 and to which they moved on a permanent basis during the war. It is where Virginia wrote, and reworked, many of her famous novels. It is also, of course, where she died.

Having seen Patti Smith’s photographs I was keen to see the bed Virginia slept in and her walking stick. Delightfully, I got to see both. In those days, of course, people sleeping alone would have slept in a single bed but it was still a surprise looking at the room with 21st century eyes. The bookcases are all original though  most of the original books owned by Virginia were sold long before the house became a museum/shrine. All that remains are the collected works of Shakespeare which Virginia had covered herself shortly before her death. 

Virginias bed

I think that it is still possible to get a sense of the woman and writer even after so many decades and changes to the house. The handpainted fireplace, for instance, gives a wonderful sense of the artistic life which surrounded VW. Her sister, Vanessa, was an important artist of the early 20th century.

The bedroom has terrific views from two large windows of the garden, the church and the countryside. It must have been inspiring to work there. It was a tranquil place and the Woolf’s spent a great deal of time in arranging it. It was here in the garden that they entertained their many visitors.

MonksHouseGarden

Within view of the house is the writing hut where VW repaired to do her daily stint of writing. VW had a view of the garden but not so much of it as to provide a great distraction from her work. 

VWswritinghut

The house itself is a collection of cottages knocked together to form one large building. The house, when bought by the Woolf’s, consisted of an entrance, a sitting room, a dining room and a tiny kitchen downstairs. By all accounts it was a mean kitchen and the Woolf’s had a newer extension built to accommodate some modern accessories. The upstairs had one large and two small bedrooms. The toilet was outside. I assume that after VM’s death, Leonard made some improvements. 

upperfloor

The house and remaining possessions provide a connection with the two writers but do not necessarily give much of an insight into how they lived and wrote. My friend thought she could feel something of VW’s spirit in the writing hut, though. I understand more of how VW wrote thanks a video I saw a few nights ago with Elaine Showalter, who talked about VW’s style of writing and how she put her novels together. The villagers I met who had known VW mentioned how she used to walk around mouthing lines from her books as she tried them out. I can imagine it was easier to get away with that in the countryside that in central London. 

I am not sure that I understand Virginia Woolf’s writing any better than I did (despite having written and read endless commentaries on her novels during my MA) but I have been inspired to pick up Hermione Lee’s biography again and find VW’s works on my Kindle. What can a writer learn from visiting this remote location? Possibly that what a woman writer needs is not just a room of her own but also sustaining relationships to help her realise her potentials.