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.