Yes, I agree that the title probably makes no sense, but anyway…
Two years ago one of my negatives was effectively destroyed (it’s a long story) and I was absolutely gutted. It was an Afghanistan image that is especially important to me and which I feel strongly connected with (Boxer Showering, Russian Pool). Over the last two years the thought of that ruined negative has really bothered me, but the silver lining was that I knew I had a high resolution drum scan of that negative (one of only a few made of Russians and Royals negatives)… somewhere. Well, a few days ago, with the house moving dust settled, I found the file.
Today, I made several small test prints followed by a few ‘working’ prints at the exact same size as the only darkroom print that I ever made from the negative (roughly 17″ x 13.5″). The ‘sole surviving’ silver gelatin print is currently hanging in the South of France, but I am now enormously relieved to have made prints that are every bit as good!
Two years ago I removed the silver print from its exhibition frame and put it in the mail, which was not a pleasant feeling. Doing so also meant that I unwrapped an empty frame/mount a few weeks ago, after moving back to the UK from Afghanistan a short while ago. Seeing that empty mount really bothered me, but it won’t be empty for long 🙂
The original image was shot using a Mamiya 7 medium format rangefinder (phenomenal cameras and optics), using Kodak Tri-X film developed in Xtol. 2008 I recall (possibly incorrectly).
I made a foray up to the Russian Pool at a time when I knew the moon would be rising, while the ambient light would still be workable for a balanced shot (of what I did not know). I arrived a touch later than planned and caught a young man throwing the last few punches of a shadow boxing routine in the basin of the old Russian Pool. I was disappointed to be too far away to photograph this (I was still approaching). My heart sank, thinking I had missed something unusual (I had never seen anyone boxing in public and never saw it again as it happens). However, as I arrived at the pool’s edge, he had a brief ‘shower’ under the water inlet and I was able to fire off two frames. That was it. This frame was taken within a minute of arriving and after this frame he climbed the steps and left. I knew I had something special and developed the partial roll straight away. There is always a peculiar anxiety when you know you have something precious on the film. My ‘routine’ was to crawl inside my wardrobe and load the film into the tanks there, after which I would develop it in my Kabul bathroom. A perfect outcome was therefore not to be taken for granted, but in this case everything went fine (until after the drum scan that is…)
The above print was made on Canson Baryta Photographique 310g. Snap courtesy of my iPhone (hence colour casts that are not there on the original).
I’m now going to have a gin and tonic.