At the Insolite we understand the role technology and pop culture play in our lives. There is often, in the art community, a notion that these things despoil art of pure artistic value when intersected with it. This magazine disagrees with that notion.1 So, in this spirit, we present our Alternative Analog Filter Techniques Series. We hope that this strikes a balance for artists wanting to remain pure in their photography, while recognizing the power of Instagram, say.
Desaturation (AKA “making things black and white,” “MTBW”) is not only popular for social media users, but also for professional photographers. Digital photographers will often desaturate photos to increase their artistic value. For street photographers, this technique is used (often with HDR) to increase emotional value of the piece.
Typically, this is done with MTBW filters on Instagram, or with advanced MTBW programs such as Adobe Lightroom. Here, however, we present an alternate analog MTBW technique called “secondary emulsion2 pre-processing” (SEPP).
Consider the following photo (“Split Level,” a staple here at the Insolite) which has been desaturated using the SEPP technique:
- Bring two cameras with you (camera A & B)
- Load camera A with color film (in the above example, the film was Provia 100f)
- Load camera B with black and white film (in the above example, the film was Ilford FP4+ shot at EI 500)
- Shoot the same photo with both A and B.
- Process film as usual.
- No post processing needed—you can post whichever version you prefer directly to Instagram.
- You can use a higher grain film in camera B to further increase artistry.
- Your photo remains artistically pure, as your filter was completely applied in-camera.
Often the subject can move between the two shots. Take, for instance, the following two versions of Buoyed Construction (the second desaturated with the SEPP technique):
In this case it is clear that the cranes moved between shooting with camera A and B. This type of “distortion” which sometimes appears when applying the SEPP technique is referred to as “temporal physical shift.” This is often the reason that SEPP is not a popular MTBW among street photographers. But, this type of distortion is often celebrated as a way to introduce wabi-sabi3 into one’s photography.
UPDATE (concerning the issue of TPS):
Problem solved. pic.twitter.com/H5jcWuD5gU
— Back East Photo (@BackEastPhoto) August 15, 2017
While SEPP may not be an ideal analog filter method in every instance, it is often a very effective way to make things black and white in an artisto-philosophically pure way.
- We recognize that, perhaps, it is the role of art to despoil technology and culture of its perceived value, but this is a different statement entirely.
- “a light-sensitive coating for photographic films and plates, containing crystals of a silver compound dispersed in a medium such as gelatin”
- 森神逍遥 『侘び然び幽玄のこころ』桜の花出版、2015年 Morigami Shouyo,”Wabi sabi yugen no kokoro : seiyo tetsugaku o koeru joi ishiki” (Japanese) ISBN 978-4434201424