I have come late to Eileen Myers

I do not remember how I came across the name Eileen Myers. I do not remember how I came across the work of Eileen Myers. What I do remember is that I came across their poetry and Twitter messages in September last year. I am surprised that I had never heard of them before after all they are the same generation of my idol, Patti Smith. They both emerged in NY around the same time. They were both photographed by Robert Maplethorpe. They were both “punk” poets.  They were, are, both political. How come I had never heard of them?

And now? And now, I am learning to read their poetry and their books. I came across Myer’s last collection “I must be living twice” in Finchley, London. It was an omen. I bought the book and flipped through it as I took the bus home. What did I like? I liked the directness. I liked the straight approach. I have no time for the romantic poets or people who weave words in such a way as a reader needs a PhD in semiology  to understand their meaning. The images of Myers on the internet show a woman who is not bound up with fashion and notions of beauty – a woman who presents themselves as they are, wrinkles and untidy hair. They dress as straightforwardly as they write.

I am currently watching the television series Transparent, in which Myles is a character and also an actor. Reading the credits reminded me of “I must be living twice” sitting on my bookshelf. I took it down. I also did an internet search for their other works. The titles, I think, are arresting: “Not Me” and “The New Fuck You.” They are challenging titles and, I am happy to say, the poems in “Not Me” are as direct and challenging as I expected.  I like “narrative poetry,” by which I mean narratives / stories  told within the confines and structure of verse. The break in the lines and the thoughts are genius.

“When I came
in I switched
on the light
to a yellow &
black striped
towel on the
floor & a big
smashed water-
melon & a
pair of
cowboy boots.”
(Not Me, page 22)

I have come late to Eileen Myers but I am glad I have come.


Adventures with paint.net


Fractured door

As I have reported in recent blog posts I have slowly been returning to my roots in photography having rediscovered analogue photography. This week’s interest has been on trying to make my photos pop out and has lead to some interesting online adventures.

While reminding myself of how to turn ordinary flat photos into eye-catching HDR photos I came across reference to paint.net. I was messing about with the programme this morning trying to turn the image below into a really standout image but what I actually created was the image above.


A nice door

The fractured image at the top of the page is actually the main image with the number 46 from the original door. I improved the colour using “autocolour” and then tried to improve on that with “hue and saturation.” I was still not getting the results I was looking for so I explored the effects. I hit the “fracture” command and the result above is what I got. It is not the intended result but rather nice nonetheless.

I think I should go back to my old Photoshop version 6 to continue with this experiment.

Analogue film experiments

I am sad to say that my first experiment in film developing did not work at all. When I took the film out of my canister there was nothing on it so I did a Google search for an explanation. It appears that some light must have got into the film. I am undaunted and want to teach this stage to some students I am teaching so I have splashed out on some new equipment.

Despite film developing being something of a niche interest these days there is still plenty of competition for any products which turn up on eBay. Having been outbid a few times I eventually got my hands on:

  • a black changing bag (essential for making sure no light gets onto the undeveloped film)
  • a Paterson film tank
  • a squeegee for getting the water off the film
  • a bag of washing soda (from a small independent shop)
  • a packet of vitamin C powder
  • some coffee
  • an old fashioned bottle opener
  • a pair of scissors
  • a thermometer
  • washing up liquid
  • Clothes pin or binder clips
  • a packet of Adofix P
  • a couple of measuring jugs

I also got a Paterson darkroom light by accident which will come in handy should I ever print out the images.


The developing kit

The theory goes like this:

  1. First shoot a roll of b & w film.
  2. Get together the ingredients and equipment.
  3. Put the film, scissors, bottle opener, reel and developing tank into the changing bag.
  4. Get the film out of the cannister using the changing bag and an old style bottle opener.
  5. Still in the bag, snip the end of the film and wind onto the reel which comes with the developing tank.
  6. Now pop the film into the tank and snap on the lid. The film should be safe now.
  7. Make up six ounces of coffee at 20°C.
  8. Add half a teaspoon of vitamin C powder. Stir.
  9. In another cup mix six ounces of water with three and a half teaspoons of washing soda. Stir.
  10. Mix the coffee mix and the washing soda mix together and heat up to 20°c again.
  11. Mix up the fixer according to the packet instructions.
  12. Add the developer to the tank and put the lid on. It needs to sit in there for around nine minutes. Agitate for a minute to make sure that all the film is coated and then agitate three times every minute.
  13. Pour out the developer. Keep the film in the tank and wash it through three or four times.
  14. Pour in the fixer. It needs to in there for five minutes. Again agitate three times eac minute.
  15. Pour out the fixer. It can be reused a few times so store it in labelled container.
  16. Now wash the film again maybe three times. For the fourth wash add a spot of washing liquid to ensure the film dries spot free.
  17. Hang up and let to dry.
  18. The film can now be scanned or printed.

I am hoping to try this out when I get to the end of my current film.

Curiously Analogue, Part Two

Developing films at home

Film photography is back!

Kodak have even announced that they are going to restart producing some of their old films again and are looking at new films they could produce.This is good news for analogue photographers like myself.

When the Impossible Project began in 2008 by rescuing the last remaining Polaroid film factory and equipment it ensured that instant film photography would continue. Indeed, it has even gained a new life in the form of refurbished old Polaroid cameras, the Fuji Instax camera range and the Lomography instant camera range. There is still nothing like the excitement of watching a photograph develop before your eyes and the new interest in instant photography has made it possible for new generations to experience that excitement.

I have had an interest in film photography since I was a teenager and lived for many years in the company of an Olympus Trip and a Praktica TL1000. For a long time my film cameras lived side by side with a Nikon wide angle digital camera and a Sony DSLR. Eventually though finding films and then getting them developed in the UK proved to be too difficult. I sold on my analogue cameras and moved into purely digital photography.

Then, a few years ago, I came across a Lomography Sampler at the Science Museum and had a great time taking multishot images. I passed on the Lomo about the same time as I acquired a box of old 35mm film cameras from a charity shop. I created a mini museum in my flat to film photography but had to sell them all when I moved into a houseshare. It was a sad moment.

Now, life has settled down a little bit and I have more time (and money) to indulge in photography. A few months ago I purchased an old Fuji Instax 10 0n eBay and had a great time taking instant photos. The quality was none too brilliant as the camera was very basic but I had fun for a while. I sold it on a few weeks ago with the intention of buying a newer model but then …

I rediscovered 35mm film at the Photographer’s Gallery in London. Boom! I went online and acquired a Canon Ixus (which takes weird compact films) and a Pentax SLR. Old style 35mm film is not particularly expensive thanks to the Lomography company from Vienna and Foma in the Czech Republic. The cost of development is pretty hard on the pocket though. I took a film from my Ixus to be developed and got a bill for £11.99. That hurt and I realised that if I was to continue experimenting with analogue film I would need to learn how to develop my own films.

This is where I am now at.

There is a lot of interest on old style photography and film developing at the moment so I was outbid on eBay quite a few times before securing a Paterson developing tank. The tank is now sitting on the dining table ready to be used. The tanks is what films are developed in. It consists of a black plastic tank, two reels onto which you wind the film, a stirrer, a funnel and a lid to prevent the liquids seeping out. The hard bit about the developing process seems to be winding the film onto a spool in the dark.

The plan is to have a go at home developing using common household products such as instant coffee, vitamin C powder, washing soda, white vinegar and salt water. The process is called Caffenol and there is a wonderful YouTube video on it: Caffenol Photo Processing. This is also a good film on the process: HD Caffenol Processing. A group in Leicester had a go a year ago: Leicester Photography Walk with happy results.

I can’t wait to get going.





Photoshop Sketch Action

A new addition to my Photoshop armoury, is the Uniqum Sketch Painting Multi Action. This action creates a sketch and painting effect over which ever parts of your photo you highlight and makes some interesting pictures. The cost is $6 and is available from  www.graphicriver.net  as a download zip file.

Inside the zip file are the actions and the brushes. It is necessary to install both in the preset files in Photoshop before you begin.

Once loaded up you need to select a picture to work on. The action works best at over 3000 px and 300 dph. Once selected, create a locked background. Then, add a layer which you call “profaction.” With this layer active, select a large soft brush and brush over the areas of the photo you want to show up as a sketch. You can do this with any colour brush.

That done, you need to make sure the correct brushes are loaded. To do, right click on the canvas or press B to bring up brushes. At the top right of the brushes panel, click on the arrow and then select “replace brushes” with the Uniqum brushes you put into the preset file. Close and activate the background layer. Now you start the action for your version of Photoshop and let it go.

Once, I got started I found the action worked well. My advice is to take the time to do something else like make a cup of coffee or sort out your laundry as watching the action is pretty boring.

Here’s what I have made on practice runs:


Dancing House, Prague


Old workshops, Cieszyn, Poland

With my new actions, and renewed interest in Lomography, my interest in photography has been rekindled.I am going to try it out on some more photographs.



Rediscovering Patti Smith

I was a teenager in the 1970s. It was the era of Bruce Springsteen singing Because the Night, Patti Smith’s Horses and Easter, Joan Baez in Hanoi, Annie Leibovitz, Susan Sontag, Fran Lebowitz, The Ecologist and CND. We studied Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes during the A level course. I read Sylvia Plath’s Bell Jar, her poetry collection Ariel  and  Patti Smith’s poetry book Babel. I was a thinker, writer, philosopher and would-be photographer. Then, I went to university where it was all about history and religion.

The music, the poetry, the novel, the photography all stayed with me and followed me across Europe. They are part of who I am. Part of how I see the world. Part of the way I think.

Last year, I read an article about Patti Smith and a review of her book M Train. I pre-ordered it on Amazon and was excited when it came. I have so far only read the first chapter waiting, I think, for the moment when she will speak to me. As I am going through a retro phase, I purchased a personal CD player an d updated my CD collection. I now have CD versions of the albums I listed to as a teenager. And more. Patti Smith still speaks to me near 40 years down the line.

For me, though, Patti Smith is as much about her Polaroid photos as about music,writing and poetry. Patti Smith is an observer, a collector of memories and an archivist. She has photographed Sylvia Plath’s grave, architecture, an empty beach or an abandoned street, an empty café, shoes, flowers, chairs and cutlery. Whenever, I see her photos I am inspired. Whenever I hear her music, I am inspired. Patti Smith is food for the soul.

This is an archived page of some of her photographs in The Guardian. This is a link to her Guardian interview. This is Patti Smith on Land Photographs. Patti Smith on Open Culture.

Photoshop Vintage Action

Much as I love messing around in Photoshop, there are moments when I want to create an effect but do not want to spend the time doing each step. That’s when I use Photoshop Actions.

The action I have used below comes from Graphic River via Envato Market. I paid $6 for the action called Perfectum – Vintage Watercolor Photoshop Action. I used the action on Photoshop CS4 Extended.


The action comes as a zip file containing the brushes and the action. It is necessary to have everything installed in the Preset folder before beginning. Then to restart the PC to get everything working. A workable image of around 3000 px and dph of 300 is required. Once the image is selected then it is necessary to create a blank layer, select a brush and whiten out the part of the image to be water-coloured. Then, start the action. A few minutes later the water-colour emerges. It is possible then to go into the layers and adjust colours etc.

The images accompanying the action on the website are very inspiring and show what can be done with this action. Once set up, it is easy to use and produces stunning images. For $6, it is well worth the money.