Not So Silent Type
A cozy Sunday morning, after having slept late, after a long, arduous work week at the chip-making factory (silicon, not chocolate); a warm, creamy latte, accompanied by bacon, over-easy eggs and pan-fried taters. I'm sitting at the computer, struggling with new anti-virus software, and some binary infection that seems persistently evil, rendering my desktop computer usable but nevertheless ailing, like some inevitable infection that you know won't end well, despite how one feels at the present, like some god-forsaken solder about to lose a leg.
And then my dear wife walks into the office, amidst my inner despair, and announces "Oh, I forgot to tell you -- this came in the mail the other day". A yellow envelope, of which I immediately knew the contents: Strikethru's "Silent Type Journal". It did not matter how the day would end, nor what would happen to my stricken machine in the office. My weekend was set.
I gently rubbed the delicate surfaces of the printed pages. I inhaled deeply the aroma of fresh print on paper, that only a book-lover can appreciate. I pushed back the guilt I'd been feeling lately over having addicted my 10-years old grandson into a hopeless office-supply junkie habit (despite having difficulty getting another typecast blog entry out of him for his "Line Writer" blog); it did not matter, all that could be pushed to the back of my mind. This was the Real Deal, the Whole Enchilada, the Big Kahuna of the gentle art of retro-tech. Proof that, despite the turmoil and despair in the world, at least a little corner of it was all right, if measured by the fact that a disparate assortment of Luddites and pseudo-Luddites had achieved the unlikely feat, well into the 21st century, of creating, publishing and distributing via US Postal Service a journal of typewritten works. Yes, typewritten. As in "kerthunk", "ding".
It is only fitting, in some sort of ad hoc spiritual reverence, that the publication of Volume 1, Issue 1 of "Silent Type" be celebrated in solemn yet lighthearted observance. Thus I went out to my garage, turned on the switch and opened the door to my small but fallow darkroom, cluttered with a collection of box cameras, sheet film holder, miscellaneous processing chemicals and a sizable layer of dust, evidence of a despairing drama silently playing itself out in my subconscious, whereby I've found it difficult to return to my silver gelatin photographic roots. It's high time, and now's as good a day as any.
I located a storage box of precut 4"x5" paper negatives within the dank clutter of the darkroom (Freestyle's Arista RC grade 2 for you sticklers out there) and proceeded to preflash said negatives in my usual manner (under a dim light source for a predetermined time), which has the effect of increasing shadow detail, helping to render a more pleasing tonal range; I loaded said paper negatives in Riteway cut film holders and proceeded to expose a still-life composition in the afternoon light of the living room using a 150mm focal length binocular lens, via a handmade lens board, on my old WWII-era Speed Graphic. One minute exposure at F/57; the 3.5mm aperture behind the lens projecting an image 200mm behind to the focal plane. If this sounds contradictory, it's because the lens that focuses to infinity at 150mm needs to be drawn out to 200mm to sharply render close-in subjects like the afternoon composition in the living room, thus the F/50 focal ratio for distant subjects becomes F/57 close-in, necessitating increased exposure. The so-called bellows extension factor. The way I deal with this is simply with a metric scale. After having focused on the scene, I remove the lens board and measure the distance from the ground glass to the lens mount, then divide this number by the diameter of the aperture stop, also in millimeters. Meter the scene, reference the working focal ratio on the scale and viola, one has their recommended exposure time. FYI, I rate the Arista paper negatives at an exposure index of 12, with the proviso that one is using freshly mixed paper developer at 68 degrees F.
So here's the deal. It may not be the most original, striking or beloved photograph ever made. That's not the point. The point is that, in celebration of Strikethru's accomplishment, I can take this paper negative and within the dank recesses of same said darkroom create a large number of black and white contact prints, one at a time, onto fine gallery-quality paper. Four by five inch contact prints. Nothing binary, no abstract image files, no viruses or trojans, just a few bits of dust and maybe a tiny scratch or three, the kind of things that happen in the real world, especially in dusty garage-based darkrooms. And whoever wants to receive an original contact print needs to email me with your postal address to "jvcabacus at yahoo dot com". Make sure the subject matter of your message says something about the Silent Type contact print. Give me a few weeks, after which I'll start to get these out in the mail.