Out of the Void


When I get into work on Monday mornings, a co-worker of mine usually asks me what I did for the weekend. This weekend, well. I did my taxes on Saturday. Woof. And then on Sunday... Then on Sunday, I spent the entire day editing one image. That’s right, one image.

I don’t know how much time other photographers put in to editing their images. Usually, I try to do as little editing and retouching as possible, so it’s pretty easy for me to go through editing down a roll of film or two in a few hours. That is, of course, when I finally get around to it. Part of my aesthetic and one of the major reasons why I continue to use film is because of the inherent imperfections of the medium. To me, it’s just something that feels more real. These days, as we continue to remove ourselves from reality through social media, Netflix, and fake news, maybe our dissociation with reality continues to allow the “real” to seem surreal. One can never be too sure.

In the summer of 2017 I purchased a Pentax K1000 at a flea market in Columbus Ohio from a man who shrugged, sighed, and said “$10,” when I excitedly picked it up from his table and asked how much it was. The camera - which was in perfect working order without a scratch to it - came complete with a wide angle lens, camera strap, and a roll of sweet E-6 slide film already inside. From what I got back when I sent the film to be developed, it seems that the film had been in the camera for some time. I wonder how many flea markets that camera had sat in the sun on a card table next to a collection of half-rusted knives, being mostly ignored. The few images that had already been shot on it seemed to have been exposed through all the color layers of the film. They were quite damaged, but it was still recognizable that they were there when looking at the slides themselves. They were also a little challenging but still not that difficult to recover. I scanned them and edited them and put the rest of the slides back in the box, shrugged, sighed, and said to myself “I’ll come up with something to do with these some day.”

A few months later, I opened the box up again. I don’t remember why, but I looked through the slides, this time holding them up to the lamp in our living room. “Holy shit, I was wrong! There’s actually images on these!” and so I scanned them. And I did a little editing, but I never really got them anywhere near where I wanted. And then we moved, and it was yet another project that I placed on the shelf, until today.

Today, I opened up one of those images and clicked around and played with different strategies until I thought I had landed on something - a process, or a formula of sorts - that worked. As I mentioned, the images that had been recognizable had been exposed through all of the color layers of the film. With the film being so badly damaged by most likely time and heat by the time I was working with this image, it seems that only one of the color layers on the film had been exposed. What had been exposed was still relatively faint and difficult to recover. Even the scanned images themselves appear to be blank until you go in and begin to mess with the Curves and the Levels. The magic answer to head scratching frustration with getting the best possible image I could out of the lack of data, though, is the Channel Mixer.

So I tinkered around with adjusting these things until I got the image where I wanted it to be. Then, I shrugged, sighed, and said, “Ok, well, I wonder what would happen if I did the same exact thing with the photo in CMYK.” So I switched that baby right on over to CMYK and played around with it in more or less the same way until I got a similar result. The image on the left (or top on mobile) is RGB and the image on the right (or bottom on mobile) is CMYK. The differences probably seem minimal, which I guess is a good thing. To me, the RGB image has richer blacks, and I think more information has been brought out in CMYK image. Maybe it's just my screen and the fact that I've been staring at them for too long. I may come back to these and tinker some more, but I think I’m done enough for the day. Here’s where I hit save, close the computer, walk away and go to the bar for dinner.

Lauren Lowery