Review of my Photogram Alphabet

The evolution of this piece of work stemmed from myself wanting to create a traditional analogue and silver based darkroom alphabet, so I came up with the idea of making a photogram alphabet. A very simple way to communicate what the brief asked for. I love the concept of photograms and have been fascinated with them for many years now but I have not really experimented with them a lot myself.  There are many subjects and themes that can be interconnected as an alphabet with the use of photograms. What I really wanted to highlight is my personal homage to the importance and the art of photography and its birthplace in the UK. It is a very big nod and a doff of my hat to our greatest pioneer of photography William Fox Talbot. The first time I ever heard about photograms is when I was a small boy, I remember the kids TV program Blue Peter did a piece on the home of William Fox Talbot the English inventor of photography and his home Lacock Abbey. I recall being captivated with the conception of how you could capture light and chemically fix its moment in time into a photograph without the use of a camera. This is where my passion for photography first began. While being on this HND photography course I have been reintroduced to the notion of photograms, and this has reawakened my hunger and enthusiasm for the most basic of photography mediums.

I spent time considering how I could bring this concept to life, what did I need to use to construct the alphabet form?  I thought about using Blutac, Playdoh, Playskool Magnetic Letters but I wanted something a bit more hands on and constructive.  Williams Fox Talbots early photograms included a feather, I really wanted to emulate the softness but without the use of a feather as I could not easily form an alphabet from this material. I wanted an item with a soft covering that could easily be manipulated into alphabetic shapes.  I decided to use pipe cleaners as they had a soft down exterior covering that would best resemble a feather giving the appearance I was aiming for.

 After purchasing the pipe cleaners I sat and considered the simplest way to shape and form my alphabet.  I found that to create the shape I needed to bend each pipe cleaner into the basic formation of each letter.  I then cut differing lengths and attached where necessary to complete each letter.

After I had finished making the alphabet out of the pipe cleaners the letters looked pretty cool and I was ready to take them into the dark room.  I have a dark room at home so it was much easier for me to make the photograms, I wasn’t constricted to lesson time so I could have a much more relaxed approach to producing my work for this alphabet.  I started by cutting dark room paper into quarters, this was not only to save paper but I also wanted to make 26 individual photograms. I used a standard dark room method and chemical fix to obtain my images. After I completed a few test prints and was happy with the results I continued to print the whole alphabet.

The results I achieved from making these photograms were very gratifying and they look very cool. I got the exact appearance I was aiming for; the pipe cleaners gave me the feathered soft edge I was aspiring for. Once the photograms were dry I had to scan them all into Photoshop just to do a final post edit to clean them up and sharpen before I put together the final image using InDesign.

 When I showed the final image at a critique session in class a very interesting conversation presented itself. It was pointed out that the font I had inadvertently designed with pipe cleaners looked very child like almost like a Comic San font, I never even thought of this.  It is an interesting comment and when you do take another look it could also resemble writing on a school chalkboard. This makes this particular piece multi meaningful in a retrospective kind of way; everybody seems to interpret it slightly differently. This is a good place to be as it just shows how other people envisaged and view other people’s art. Overall I was very happy with this alphabet and I nailed it to what I was trying to communicate as a piece of work.

D.W Images Photography Milton Keynes

Photogram Alphabet






Milton Keynes Photography – Commercial, Event, Product, Family and Wedding

The review of my QR Code ABC

My QR Code alphabet started as an idea to fulfill a piece of work using a multiple of photography techniques from digital to silver based dark room ideals. I wanted to communicate the alphabet in a 21st century way, making it a fully interactive piece. In the past I have worked in the industry where QR codes are a common place, and I thought this would make an ideal subject to portray an alphabet.  To most people QR codes don’t really mean a thing and are taken for granted and ignored, even though they are commonplace in our daily lives. We are bombarded every day with QR codes in ads, in magazines and newspapers. But in the past they were only used in the motor industry to track the use of parts in the production of cars.

The QR code has all the elements in place I need to make a fully interactive alphabet; I just needed to work out a way to convey the alphabet.The start of my idea for this ABC stemmed from a podcast by my friend Ted Forbes where he was talking about taking digital negatives and making darkroom prints.  When Ted was talking about the process he hadn’t managed to get it down to his satisfaction so I thought this would be a great opportunity to have a go myself.

To develop the idea I searched the web for the ideal way to generate the QR codes and I found the best way to do this was by using a code generation website. I then decided I was going to make darkroom prints of the digitally produced QR codes. My aim was to produce a QR code ABC but not in the standard sense. The code would be produced digitally then printed on to OHP transparencies. After this they would be reproduced in the darkroom using traditional methods of silver based developing, using the Transparency to make a negative. I would then use that negative to make a darkroom print.  Once they were ready I would scan the darkroom prints back to digital files and present them as an A3 Print using Photoshop to stich everything together.

I had several attempts to find the correct format.  First I tried to print the QR code onto plain paper, then took this print to the darkroom and using an enlarger reproduced a darkroom print using traditional darkroom methods and chemicals. This didn’t work as well as I hoped, all the images from the darkroom came out too grey, I wanted to keep the prints as clean as I could so I had to re-think my idea.

On my second attempt I decided I needed to develop a way of printing directly on to the transparencies so I called upon InDesign.  I produced a negative that I could use in an enlarger and went back into the darkroom. This time I came across another problem, I could not print the QR codes dark enough and the enlarger was letting to much light through even with the aperture turned right down and using a No 5 filter, so yet another re-work was needed.

Back to the drawing board for my 3rd try and this time I wanted to stay with the transparency method and printed a page of QR codes instead of individual letters on separate transparencies.  I took these back into the darkroom and created contact prints. Give me a pat on the back, this time it was a success. Contact printing was the way to go.  I went off and printed the final work at home in my own darkroom, I didn’t want to wait to use the college facility.  Once I was happy with the print I had developed in my darkroom, I used the scanner app on my phone to check that it was readable.

After all my tests and experiments and before I was happy with the process I was going to use I had to make the alphabet fully interactive. I built a website with each page corresponding with a letter from the alphabet, so for the final piece each code is linked to its own page making the complete circle from digital back to analogue and back to digital.

Overall this part of the project was far and away the best piece I have done. It has been so much fun working with digital and analogue together.  One of the best things I have achieved from producing this alphabet is learning to make a digital negative in Photoshop out of a photograph shot on a digital camera. Using this digital negative hard copy I have learnt to reproduce it as a contact print using full darkroom techniques. The detail you can achieve from a digital negative is just amazing.

So to recap this alphabet goes from digitally generated QR codes from the Internet, manipulated in Photoshop to a negative then contact printed in the darkroom, back to scanned digital images.


Food Alphabet Review

I wanted to communicate an alphabet of food; there was no greater factor behind this idea.  It was simply everybody eats food and everybody uses the alphabet, its just our culture.  I suppose I could have gone down the starvation or wastage of food route but this seemed a little predictable.

I looked at images on the Internet of food in the shapes of letters to gather inspiration.  Most of the images were either food made into letter shapes or letters cut out of food.  I wanted to do something a little different.  I was unsure what exactly so I decided further research was needed.

As my primary research had resulted in hundreds of images all the same, I needed to delve further and hunt for extra stimulation.  I searched for different types of alphabet and foods and liked the idea of using ice the greatest.  I then thought of what ice could mean and how that could represent an ABC rather than just frozen water in shapes. Ice melts which could portray the use of letters and language today.  The correct pronunciation of each letter being the solid frozen letters to a melted letter being the more common used slang version.  But how would this fit in to my food concept, I still wanted to use food as my basis.

I decided to use frozen food to make a frozen food alphabet whereby each item of food started with the corresponding letter, for example E would be frozen egg.  This idea seemed to be the most fluid and could be molded into numerous visual formats.

I needed to find a way to bring my idea to fruition, so to my good friend Amazon I went to find ice cube trays in the shape of letters.  Next I had to decide how to present and prepare the food, so I gathered some test ingredients together and had a play around with chopping, dicing and mashing to see what would be the best way to fill the ice cube tray ready for freezing and what would be most aesthetically pleasing.  Once I had decided on the easiest and most striking appearance I went shopping.  I wanted to find a different type of food for each letter of the alphabet.  After purchasing all the ingredients from various sources it was time to fill the ice cube trays and let them set.  Some of the foods used had very little moisture content and I found the best way to solve this issue was to add a little water and suspend them in the ice.  These foods were things like noodles, walnuts and rice.  In fact during the whole process I found adding a little water to both the wet and dry ingredients made for a better freezing process.

I photographed a few test shots of the frozen letters on a chopping board; I had to decide whether the shiny or matt side of each letter would be most appropriate for the images. What was the final message I wanted to say? I decided to use the matt side as this appeared to give the most texture to the food.

After showing them to Barry and Matt in class we agreed that for this idea the chopping board would make a perfect background.  It was my plan to shoot the whole series using a digital camera and a consistent background would make for an appealing image.

I chose to photograph each letter individually with the camera securely attached to my tri-pod.  I had to overcome a couple of problems when photographing this ABC, these were removing the letters for the tray without damaging them, Jam does not freeze and ice-cream melts very quickly.

These particular letters had to be shot extremely quickly after being removed from the mold, I didn’t have time to make adjusts so I had to be sure that the camera was set correctly.

Once I had completed the photography of the alphabet I did all the edits in Photoshop.  It was a simple colour correction, sharpness adjustment and crop to each image and then I stitched the images together in a final post process using InDesign.

If I was going to reshoot this ABC I would use the shiny side of the letters, I believe now that this would have given a cleaner image especially to the food items that had been suspended in ice.

This was quite a long drawn out process to achieve the final image but I enjoyed the method and would do it again.  The final images are worth the amount of time that this ABC has taken to produce.  I feel it is a worthwhile photographic piece in its context but is it a piece of art?

Food ABC