Billy Jacked

A couple of years or so back I was browsing at a San Francisco bookstore and came across a book called "Projection Control" by William Mortensen whom I had previously known only as an antagonist to the old f/64 group back in the 1930's. His pictures seemed oddly modern however, so I read further and found that he was an advocate of what we might think of as a ridiculous method. He developed his film not for minutes but for hours.

Today all B&W shooters know "expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights" as espoused by core f/64 paladin Ansel Adams — Mortenson's approach was 100% opposed, "expose for the highlights and develop for the shadows." And the way he did this was to develop until there was simply no more developing to be done, to set the film in the tank and leave it.

So I tried it out, ran a roll of 120 Acros through the Bronica at a variety of exposures from three stops over standard to many stops below, put the film in the tank, loaded it with Rodinal 1+100, and went out for coffee with the SV Bloggers over at Barefoot Coffee. Two hours later I returned and fixer'd the film.

Normal development time for Acros is something like 11 minutes, so I anticipated some pretty black negatives, heavily over-developed. Which is not what I found at all!

Instead, I only seem to have gained a single stop or so in the overall exposure. The underexposed frames were... well, clear. I threw them away. The remaining frames I scanned, down to a faint level where the scanner way just taking a picture of the light source.

The strip above shows the frames at one-stop intevals around "normal" (marked with a triangle). The "minus one" is pretty much right where I would expect a normal exposure to land.

Does it look unusual, different from "normal" agitated development? Yeah, take a look: the local exhaustion effects, to my eyes, look a wee bit like stepping on the "unsharp mask" a little too hard. I like it.

Minus one

September 08, 2005





Comments on "Billy Jacked"

September 9, 2005 04:41 AM

Neat. How is it different from stand-development though? The over-over part?

I suppose even slower development (dilution, temperature) would be interesting.

September 9, 2005 04:44 AM

I meant under-over.

September 9, 2005 11:24 AM

Well, it is stand development, and developed until there's nothing more to do. The other element of Mortensonism is soft frontal lighting "Projection Control" is somewhat funny in his initial rant against pedantic photo rules (I guess he meant Adams et al) followed by page after page after page of "you MUST do it this way" and "these steps MUST be followed...." his pics look modern NOW because his emphasis on artifice syncs well with current "grungy" tastes. If the photo looks like a rock fell on it, then that sort of textured rendition fits will with a lot of Mortenson's textured, knife-chipped and pencil-covered prints.


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