Carbon Copy – Experiments

In thinking about how to apply ideas of memory into my project I was thinking about ways of extending the twin-check label idea. I was then considering the way that we record and make copies as I have been creating copies of negatives from my family archive (Fig: 1 & 2).

Figure 1: Unknown/Phil Hill (1970s) Scanned page from family archive with ‘Manual Intervention’ images
Figure 2: Phil Hill (February, 2021) Re-discovered image from negatives showing person cut from album image. Re-photographed onto black and white film.

Listening to Sara Davidmann’s guest lecture (2016), I was struck by the mention of how Davidmann’s mother used carbon copy paper to make and keep a copy of correspondence, which is something that I distinctly remember my grandmother doing. I have also got a great deal of items within the archive from my parents wedding that include things like receipts and invoices that have used the carbon copy method of creating a copy of the original text. It feels very indexical to create a copy of something this way, much like photography does. To experiment with this, I wanted to see of it was possible to use the carbon copy paper photographically and create a unique photographic object using it.

Figure 3: Phil Hill (February, 2021) Scanned image of St Christopher Necklace
Figure 4: Phil Hill (March, 2021) Scanned image of Rubbing using Carbon Copy paper

For the most part, what I was able to create was a form of rubbing drawing over an object, such as the St Christopher necklace (Fig: 3 & 4). Although this is not photographic yet, I did think that it yielded some interesting results in the sense of the trace left by an object. I did try to do this with a negative as there are subtle differences in the relief of the surface of a negative between the way that shadow and highlights translate into the emulsion however, not nearly enough to make an impression on the page (Fig: 5) That said, I also enjoy the idea of an image being present at the time of this rubbing, even if you cannot see it in the carbon. In a sense, playing with the Barthes idea of the not being able to deny that the thing had been there (1981, p. 76). There was an image on the negative – just not one that is able to be resolved by the carbon paper. The reality of the carbon versus the photographic image are two distinct objects that diverge in the reading of them through the qualities of the medium. Perhaps to add intrigue to the carbon rubbing, I could play around with the text that accompanies it. Then, the image that cannot be seen on the negative could be whatever I wanted it to be.

Figure 5: Phil Hill (March, 2021) Various rubbings over black and white negative

The rubbings, although interesting, are clearly not photographic unless scanned or photographed themselves. This then creates a photograph of an object over the use of the carbon within the photographic practice. To further explore methods of adding carbon to the process, I attempted to apply the rubbing directly onto photographic material (Fig: 6), knowing that through chemigram processes, there is the possibility of an image being resolved under the parts of the image that developer and fix are unable to get to. I didn’t have access to paper, so I used film stock instead. Unfortunately, this didn’t create a result as the carbon washed off the print before it had a chance to create an impact. Now that I have access to a darkroom, I may attempt this process again with photo paper instead of film as the slower processing time will provide much more control over the outcome.

Figure 6: Phil Hill (March, 2021) Rubbing onto sheet of 5×4 black and white film.
Figure 7: Alternative Photography (2012) Carbon Transfer Printing process.

Interestingly, there is a long established printing process called carbon transfer (Fig: 6), that I could eventually resort to. Although, this would effectively produce images that would not directly show the medium, it might be useful to reference the idea through this form of printing. That said, at the moment this is a very small idea within a larger whole and I must be careful not to find myself in some kind of dead end – potentially the printing process might lend itself to some additional subtle referencing.

Figure 8: Phil Hill (March, 2021) Colour positive scan of carbonb copy sheet
Figure 9: Phil Hill (March, 2021) Black and White negative scan of carbon copy paper.

One interesting development from this experimentation however, was the impression the rubbing left on the sheet of carbon copy paper (Fig: 8). I attempted to scan this and the result was heavily banded, possibly as a result of the scanner software trying to resolve the heavy black tones over a large area. However, I quite like the merging of qualities of each process – creating a slightly more photographic result (Fig: 9).


Figure 10: Phil Hill (March, 2021) Twin-Check Label Experiment

Figure 11: Lee Russell (1937) Untitled photo, possibly related to: Mr. Tronson, farmer near Wheelock, North Dakota

Another small experiment was to use the twin-check label in some way and apply the sticker before I made any photographs. My aim here was to see how the sticker would impact the emulsion, and if I could create an ingrained double exposure as in my family archive (Fig: 10). The results were varied, with some interesting outcomes from the images I made. Mostly, they created a rectangle image, where the light was unable to penetrate the sticker surface, reminding me of the Roy Striker ‘killed’ images from the FSA archive (Fig: 11). This however could feed into the idea of state control, narrative, censorship, and the idea of absent memories that I have been exploring in my work.

  • It was noted by Ross in the portfolio reviews that as I have switched back to shooting colour, there is a certain ambiguity in the work in determining images from my archive and those made by me. This confusion could be useful in creating the mystery alluded to through the feedback from Hanah-Katrina Jedroz. There is potential to carry the Twin Check idea into the images that I am shooting somehow as a reference to everyday vernacular processes of photography.

Barthes, R., 1981. Camera Lucida. 2nd ed. s.l.:Vintage Classics.

Davidman, S., 2016. Guest Lecture: Sara Davidman. Falmouth: Falmouth Flexible (Falmouth University).

Portfolio Reviews – Adapt 21

Feedback 08/03

I made the decision to attend two portfolio reviews at this year’s symposium, although I would have loved to have done more, but owning to other commitments I was able to make the two. Wendy suggested that it would be good idea to have my work reviewed by Mariama Attah, as she may find interest in the family archive subject matter that I have been exploring. For my other review, I chose Hannah-Katrina Jedroz, who I felt had a strong practice involving self-initiated projects and explores themes such as place and identity.

It had been a long while since having my work reviewed at a portfolio session. I was slightly apprehensive of the prospect as my project is very new and maybe the focus of the critique may have been on the un-polished nature of the work. However, I found it to be really valuable in terms of advice and feedback on the work. I had some challenges to the way that I am approaching certain areas, which I think was right to point out.

Hannah-Katrina Jedrosz

This was a useful review in terms of the commercial applications for our projects. Jedrosz gave great advice to all of the participants, which I also made good notes on. Man of the things that she mentioned I was already aware of, but it is really valuable to have this confirmed and recapped on to ensure that I am always aiming to follow it.

  • It is important to think about the audience for the work early on as this provides a way of focussing the work.
  • Mixing up compositional elements of the images is useful in order to continually surprise the viewer of the work whilst looking through your sequence – If they are all the same then the sequence may become stale
  • Make sure that when you photograph a subject that you photograph lots. Move around in the space and make a great deal of variation in the imagery that you are creating.
    • This will give you a ‘Box of treats’ to select from when editing the work.
  • In a commercial sense – is the work ‘click bait’ enough?
  • Establish the ‘rules’ of the project – giving a structure to follow.
  • Have a look at the worl of photography. What are the pictures that ‘stop’ me – Referencing Barthes’ ‘punctum’

Feedback on my work

I was curious to understand if there would be any interest in my project, which is quite a personal story, to a wider audience. Jedrosz was very positive in her feedback, stating that there is always interest in a photography project that has an in-built intrigue – ‘Audiences love a mystery.’

My ideas behind narrative structure was also well received and Jedroz commented that the images that I am using felt symbolically good for the project.

An important takeaway was that I really need to show the work to people often and not necessarily aim to solve everything myself. It would be a good idea to find people that would be able to support the development of the project in the same sort of position that a producer might inhabit if this was a moving film work. Identifying collaborators would be useful to talk through the project and ensure that I was sticking to the fundamentals. Collaboration over competition.

Mariama Attah

An observation that I made earlier on in the MA was to aim not to over explain my images. Many times I have waffled on about what my project is, forgetting the ownership that the reader has on my work – and that I need to remain open to this. Ambiguity, especially for this current work will be really vital to its success.

Attah’s advice and opinion was really valuable again. I found a lot to make notes on during everyone’s presentations.

  • The design of a book could also take in elements of referencing of the project within its design – for example, different paper weight/stocks, layering
  • How could you use elements of current trends in visual culture – sometimes playful images are able to articulate bigger ideas/subjects.
  • It is really important to consider the ethical questions of the work. How much are my subject’s collaborating in the work? Are they collaborators or subjects?

Attah mentioned the idea of ‘Epigenetics’ during the sessions and how we all inherit ‘trauma’ from previous generations. Although this wasn’t feedback on my work, I really resonated with the idea in relation to my topics and this is something that I want to look at closely.

Crucially, Attah questioned the reasons why I was discussing class in relation to this work when effectively, I have benefitted from a social mobility. I wonder if there are elements of me aiming to portray an element of wanting to create authenticity in the work by overtly referencing my class background. Perhaps, I do not need to do this so obviously as ideas of being from a working class background would naturally come through in the exploration of my work. This was one of the biggest takeaways for me as I think that I am trying to shoehorn too many ideas into one body of work when these ideas may present themselves naturally. It may still be important to find a position on this however, but for now the focus should be on the archive and the connection to family.

My project should continue to focus on the way that narrative structure can play its role. Ideas of mystery and intrigue in the investigation will also create an interesting project that will resonate. I aim to continue researching the idea of evidence and perhaps bring in elements of detection and investigation. The underlying concepts of family and connection will also continue and my own class would naturally come through the work without the need to overtly reference it.