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.


Digital To Darkroom

Digital Photography Meets Traditional Silver Based Techniques

Today has all been about darkroom experimentation, and what a blast I have had. As a photographer I still like to shoot film and you can’t beat that feeling when you open the dev tank after you have shot a processed a roll. If your anything like me I can’t wait to get into the dark room and print a contact sheet and chose the images I want to print. This got me thinking; I want to make prints of some of my digital work. “So just print it, the printer is next to you on your desk” I hear you cry. Its not that simple, I want to print them in the darkroom. I want to bring the traditional silver based method into my digital photography, and today I have…

I started by picking two images from a recent shoot I did and opening them up in Photoshop, these are the two I picked.

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Next was to make the negative so I made sure they where both converted to greyscale. I then inverted the images and adjusted the curves to bring up the contrast. IMG_8524-Edit IMG_8588-Edit Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 16.55.56 Screen Shot 2014-01-18 at 16.56.15

After I had made the adjustments I printed both negatives on to transparencies and cut down to size. I had made both 8×10 ready to fit the paper I had in my darkroom.

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So off to the darkroom with my digital negatives in hand and proceeded to make test exposures to make sure I have the correct setting. As these negatives are 10×8 I needed to make contact prints and once I had everything set correctly I made my first full exposure of the first negative. I worked out that with the No 5 Filter and the smallest aperture setting on my enlarger the exposure time would be 14 sec.

14 seconds went by and into the developer goes the paper and wait with bated breath; a couple of seconds went by as if by magic the image begins to appear. The paper getting darker as this most wonderful of chemical reactions takes place, done we have a print so into the stop bath for about 30 sec then into the rapid fix bath. At this point I know
I have a image printed but under the red light of the darkroom you don’t get the real sense of what you have just printed, so I left it in the fix for a little longer then transferred the print to the water bath for a quick wash.

Now time to take a look so I get the print from the water bath and take it into the daylight, I couldn’t asked for anything better as this is a complete first attempt at processing a digital image this way. I was blown away with the results so back into the darkroom to print the next negative I had made, keeping everything the same I made the second exposure, and again I was blown away with the finished print. I have 2 really cool prints that were originally digital images shot on my Canon EOS.

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Milton Keynes Photography

Milton Keynes Wedding Photography

Great Value Family Photography in Milton Keynes


The QR code system was invented in 1994 by Toyota‘s subsidiary, Denso Wave. Its purpose was to track vehicles during manufacture; it was designed to allow high-speed component scanning. Although initially used for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing, QR codes now are used in a much broader context, including both commercial tracking applications and convenience-oriented applications aimed at mobile phone users (termed mobile tagging). QR codes may be used to display text to the user, to add a vCard contact to the user’s device, to open a Uniform Resource Identifier (URI), or to compose an e-mail or text message. Users can generate and print their own QR codes for others to scan and use by visiting one of several paid and free QR code generating sites or apps. It has since become one of the most-used types of two-dimensional barcode.

My aim in this is to produce a QR code ABC but not in the standard sense. This code will be produced digitally then printed on to OHP transparencies. After this they will be reproduced in the dark room using traditional methods of silver based developing, using the transparency as a negative and making a darkroom print.  Once ready I will scan the darkroom prints back to digital files and present as an A3 Print using Photoshop to stich everything together.

I think this idea is pretty cool as it’s taking the alphabet, which is thousands of years old. Making it 21st century digital reproducing the digital version with 19th century analogue methods, then turn it back to digital thus completing a full circle photographic reproduction.

Below you will see my first time experiment from producing a QR code from an online QR code generator, printing it on plain paper. I then took this print to the darkroom and using an enlarger reproduce a darkroom print using traditional darkroom methods and chemicals.  I have added examples of these prints alongside test strips I made to get the exposer time correct.

I wanted to keep the darkroom prints nice and clean but I could not achieve this, because the QR code was printed on to paper and that was making the whites very grey.  This is nothing that I had envisaged in my head, I want clean blacks and whites so my next step is to use OHP transparencies.

To get an all-round good first exposure I tested at 2 seconds’ intervals and opted finally for and overall 3 second exposer.