Tuesday, 30 December 2014

In with the old!

'In with the old' might be a strange theme for the end of the old year and beginning of the new but it just sprang into my mind as I have been reviewing and re-printing work of mine from the 1960's and '70's. 
Splott, Cardiff, 1970
The passage of time possibly allows for a more objective re-assessment of work made many years ago. Images that were passed over then and never printed, now take on a new life when viewed anew. A number of reasons may be pointed to here. Time has provided a considerable distance from the actual picture making to the reviewing of the work and editing. At the time of making photographs it is certainly true that particular environments, scenarios and individuals that pass before your camera, assume an importance and a priority in your work that can take precedence over other factors. It may be that you are working around a series, theme or location and other images made at that time are not given serious consideration as a consequence. 

Mill Lane Market, Cardiff, 1970
Personal and wider photographic styles and taste change over the years too. Images that may not have been considered in the past on stylistic grounds now appear to fit in with more current trends and ideas of image content and construction. 

The passage of time, in the examples here for instance of some forty five years, also adds interest to some of the images due to physical and social changes in the various environments featured in the photographs. Towns and cities change, as do social habits, fashion, working practices etc. Looking back on some of these older images now is a bit like looking back on another age. It is I suppose but when you lived through it and it was your everyday environment it does not seem as alien as it probably does to a younger audience. What we have then is this combination of nostalgia, history and a re-contextualising of the images from their original intent. 
Splott, Cardiff, 1970

We sometimes forget, probably due to other concerns in making the work at the time that photography, in its most basic form is a fantastic recording medium. Images made for one purpose or context, after years have passed now take on another life and significance. 

The Hayes, Cardiff, 1971
I have family snaps taken by my Father in the late 1940's and early 50's and the main interest in these now is not necessarily the family members featured but the changes in fashion and the environment that appear in the background. So it is, in some respects with the older images of mine I am reviewing now. I may notice that a particular location no longer exists so the photograph now takes on a new life as an historical document. 

Some images of course were just overlooked at the time. I find one now and again and wonder why I didn't notice it at the time and mark it up or print it. I have all my original contact sheets from those years and it is interesting to see what I marked up for printing at the time and what was disregarded or overlooked. 
Queen Street, Cardiff, 1971

Most of what I am reviewing and printing now were never taken for 'commercial' use or on assignment but was all 'personal' work. Images that just interested me at the time, just this 'recording' of the environment I found myself in during that period of my life. 

It makes you think of course about how a even later generation might look at these images in years to come, plus the ones I am making now. I will never know of course so have to content myself to enjoying revisiting my older work and discovering the odd little gem that has been hiding in my filing cabinets all these years.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

"Turner would turn in his grave".

The recent interest in the work of J.M.W. Turner with a major exhibition at Tate Britain and the much acclaimed Mike Leigh film 'Mr. Turner' starring Timothy Spall has brought back a memory.
'Ty Bach Under a Tree, near Tregaron, Ceredigion, 1984'
From the exhibition 'Great Little Tin Sheds of Wales'

I have written before about exhibiting one's work and how, once it is in the public domain you must expect brickbats from some quarters. Maybe I have been lucky in that respect but the number of times my work has been subjected to vitriol by a serious critic over the years has been, thankfully, small. Some creative people pretend to dismiss and ignore criticism as 'unimportant' or  'irrelevant '. Of course it depends on the context for the criticism and from where it is coming. Serious, informed comments by people whose opinions you may respect is to be welcomed sometimes. Again, I'm lucky in having a circle of intelligent friends and colleagues who dispense help and advice as a body of work progresses.  By the time the work is published or exhibited, I am reasonably content that I have been as critical as I can about my work and have taken on board the valued comments from these individuals. While not dismissing other, later opinions, I can usually be rational about them and not become overly depressed about any that may be less than complimentary. 
'Tin Cottage with Slate Roof, Pembrokeshire, 1984'
From the exhibition 'Great Little Tin Sheds of Wales'

However, you may get, as I did, early on in my exhibiting life comments that rock you backwards but when viewed rationally are quite laughable.

My first one-person exhibition was of work I made in Cardiff before I moved to West Wales. Traditional documentary street photography and although some images showed a measure of deprivation in parts of the city which might not to be everyone's taste, it was well received. As I mentioned in a previous blog work from that was acquired by the Arts Council for their collection. 
Portmanmoor Road, Cardiff, 1969
After the move to West Wales my attention turned to the landscape that I was now surrounded by. Partly as a learning curve to deal with this genre of photography that was new to me, in terms of my personal photography at least, my attention focussed on the man-made aspects of the new environment I found myself in. The part of West Wales I live in contains many small farms and smallholdings that eke out a subsistence living for much of the population. Financial necessity had dictated that many of the utilitarian buildings are fashioned from re-used corrugated iron and these, for me, stood in the landscape as totems of the history of this land and of those who had inhabited and worked it for generations. 

The body of work that finally emerged appeared to catch the public imagination and I received many gratifying comments and also the knowledge, from these comments, that many people were now seeing their environment in a different way. Isn't that just the purpose of much documentary landscape photography? I was satisfied. Even today, some thirty years after this exhibition opened, people come up to me to point out a shed they have seen somewhere that caught their attention.
'Spratt's Bonio, Rhycymerau, Carmarthenshire, 1984
From the exhibition, 'Great Little Tin Sheds of Wales'

However, there were some dissenting voices mainly from those who really didn't understand and had very blinkered views about culture and the landscape.

One of the many venues that hosted the exhibition was the Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in Swansea. At the same time, in the adjoining gallery room was that year's Swansea Festival exhibition, 'Turner in Wales'. A fine collection of the landscape master's work on his various tours through Wales. Oils, watercolour sketches and some drawings in notebooks. The local paper, the South Wales Evening Post, wrote a piece about the two shows. My show received three quarters of a page complete with images, while Turner got a few paragraphs. I was delighted until I read the headline and looked closely at the pictures. They purported to show members of the public (actually they were posed and set up) pointing at my prints and shaking their fists in mock outrage! The headline proclaimed, 'Turner would turn in his grave!' Priceless! A few members of the Welsh language cultural establishment had taken offence at my portrayal of these structures in the landscape and would have preferred rolling hills, sheep and daffodils! 
'Great Little Tin Sheds of Wales' exhibition catalogue
Never mind, the show toured for over two years within the UK and many prints were sold. Enough that I was able to fund the building of a studio on the land behind my home. I was laughing all the way to the bank. If there is a moral to this tale it is just what I highlighted earlier, take advice from trusted, knowledgeable people and do not be swayed by ill-informed criticisms. 

Monday, 13 October 2014

"They don't make that any more!"

"They don't make that any more" said the man passing me in the street, waving dismissively at the fresh roll of Tri-X that I was loading into one of my Leicas. "Really?" I said, "This must be a mirage then", holding up the new roll. "Ah", he said, with an air of absolute certainty, "but you can't get it developed any more". "Well in that case" I said, "once l've put this roll of imaginary film through the camera I'll just throw it in the bin". The passer-by looked at me as if I was quite mad, shook his head and strode on. He must have had the triple bypass; humour, charisma and irony, because he failed to grasp the reality of the situation and the fact that I was poking gentle fun at his lack of knowledge. (He was probably the chairman of the local camera club and these bypasses are a compulsory condition of membership). 
The Hayes, Cardiff, 2011

I really don't look to attract attention when I'm in my 'street photography' (not keen on that terminology but you know what I mean) mode and persona. I have enough of that when I'm using the 10" x 8" camera atop a nine foot tall tripod with me perched precariously on a stepladder. I am quite adept at being relatively inconspicuous when out and about. This is one of the reasons that I still prefer to use my older Leicas due to their 'retro' look that doesn't normally attract attention and their quiet and unobtrusive operation. I have been using them since the 1960's so feel very comfortable and familiar with them and their use. This means that I do not have to think too much about the camera and it's operation so I'm not attraction attention to myself while making pictures by fumbling with the mechanics. 

Queen Street, Cardiff, 2011
However, just recently I have been stopped a few times because it is just this retro look and the particular camera that has sparked some memories for a few older people. "Oh a Leica!" has become a phrase that I am beginning to dread now as I know that it will result in my having to stop and chat, show the cameras, explain what I'm doing and listen to tales of regret that the wonderful old Leica they had many years ago was got rid of to buy a new digi and they now regret it etc. etc. etc. I'm not a great one for camera chat but I am usually patient, polite, answer the questions then move on.

Like most photographers I enjoy the occasional change of pace and vision that using a different camera brings with it, which allows me the opportunity from time to time to make the kind of work that I made regularly in the 1960's and which still interests me now. 

Carmarthen, 2012
I have never been dogmatic about what equipment is 'right' for any job or aspect of photography, only that each photographer should select the most appropriate for them and what they are trying to achieve. Over the years I have used almost everything from half frame to 11" x 14" in addition to my new digital Leicas. Most recent work has been on the 10" x 8" but I enjoy getting to grips with the technicalities and idiosyncrasies of all formats and materials and using them when appropriate. Now, I had better order up some of that film that isn't made any more so I can throw it straight in the bin because it can't be processed!

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Where do you start?

Beginning a new body of work for a photographer must be as scary as a writer starting a new novel. We don't have blank pages to stare at but sometimes, in my case, staring at a landscape and attempting to form both an idea and an image in my head feels the same. 
52º 06.765’ / 4º 01.459’ Looking east,  2014

Those first trips out to a new environment can be both exciting and frustrating at the same time. Long experience has shown me that I tend, in the early stages of new work, to 'borrow' from past projects as a starting point for arriving at a photographic strategy. This might be in terms of the arrangement of the various motifs within the frame and certain compositional devices that I have used previously. Like a writer, the harder task comes later when you have to ruthlessly weed out those images that don't work or that you think may be too similar to past images to have sufficiently satisfied the need for developing a new approach. 
52º 07.486’ / 3º 59.514’ Looking North West, 2014

While we understand that some writers make a financial success from churning out similar 'potboilers' year after year, most hanker for the next book to be different and maybe groundbreaking. Some even use different pseudonyms for writing in different styles or genres. A good photographer will also, while remaining faithful to a style that has worked for them will wish to make each successive body of work move forward in some way.

After the preliminary research, planning and thinking time is over, the first field trips are usually a tentative foray into the chosen geographical area to make a start. You need to be familiar with the topography in order to begin to generate themes and ideas that fit both the location and what is being attempted in terms of the ideas being expressed. It's sometimes a long, gradual process. 
52º 06.380’ / 4º 01.054’ Looking South, 2014

Again, like a writer, scrutiny of the work as it progresses and a critical approach to editing will, sooner or later, yield maybe just one image that appears to 'work' for one reason or another. This is usually a critical moment in the project, as a breakthrough has been made that inevitably shapes the direction of the project and also gives you a confidence that you may have arrived at a strategy that is working. 
52º 06.439’ / 4º 01.123’ Looking South West, 2014

I can remember such moments in almost all by bodies of work. Sometimes just one image that seemed to form the key to the whole project. The one image that then stood as the touchstone for the ones that were still to come. If there was a simple formula for arriving at this then I would apply it every time, but there isn't. In a sense you have to suspend the notion of trying to impose a strategy on the landscape and your images too early on and let it happen of it's own accord. It will, given time, sooner or later.

It hasn't quite as yet with this new work but it will, given more time more critical analysis and many more field trips. 

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Making an exhibition of myself

It's been a long time since my first major exhibition way back more than thirty five years ago but it doesn't get any easier, no matter how many times you go through the process. That's how it should be of course, as even though you gain experience with every successive show, you should always aim for the next one to be better.
Salvation Army Sunday School, Splott, Cardiff 1969

Just before I left Cardiff to move to the wilds of West Wales, I approached the Arts Council exhibitions officer to show the collection of photographs of the city that I had built up over a number of years. They were photographs of a city in transition and many of the images depicted sections of the population in and around localities that were being swept away for redevelopment. I reasoned that a show of this work at that time, within the then changing city would be appropriate. The Arts Council loved the photographs but didn't share my reasoning about the exhibition. Instead they suggested that I might approach one of the big department stores in the city and stick up my prints in the window with Blu-Tack. Now I have never been over precious in my regard for my work but even then, I thought this was quite inappropriate for this work so I thanked them for their advice and forgot about it for a while. 
Splott, Cardiff, 1970

Rejections are a fact of life in the creative world and you have to live with the sometimes uncomfortable truth that not everyone shares your own enthusiasm for the work you make. When your work is seen in public, whether through exhibition or publication, you are putting your head above the parapet so to speak so you must expect the brickbats along with, hopefully, a bit of praise. 

The important thing is always to take advice from trusted, practitioners with experience of the particular field and never give up. 
Splott, Cardiff, 1969

When I subsequently moved to West Wales I found myself surrounded by people in the museum and gallery world and with help and advice soon secured an exhibition of the Cardiff work. It was a steep learning curve in terms of editing, presentation, applying for Arts Council grants, dealing with gallery directors and technicians etc. etc.  It also gave me an insight into the sometimes fickle world of the arts and arts councils and how individuals can change their minds about you once others have given recognition to work they might have once rejected. It happened with this exhibition in a small way. The Arts Council, who a short while previously had advised me to stick my prints up in a shop window, now gave me a grant to produce the show and subsequently purchased prints for the Arts Council art collection. Due, in no small way to the fact that others had seen merit in my work and had offered exhibitions. 
Owens Barbers Shop, Bridge Street, Cardiff, 1970

It was a useful insight and I have used this ploy successfully for many years in playing one potential sponsor off against another when I am looking for financial support for projects. Drop big hints that one organisation is supporting you and another, not wanting to be seen to be left behind or out of line with the trend will often stump up too.
Exhibition catalogue

Another thing that one can never accurately predict however is the reaction to any publication or exhibition by press or public. Very often one is contradictory to the other and no matter how often you try to pretend that it doesn't matter, there are times when you can feel a little daunted. Criticism from informed friends or from those whose opinion you respect should always be welcomed. However, sometimes the comments are barbed and made to just belittle the work or make some clever point. Those are never welcome. I have developed a thick(ish) skin and have enough experience now to take it all in, sift the useful comments from the ill-informed and move on. I will write more on that topic again..........

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Photographers block?

On a photography forum recently there has been an ongoing discussion about 'photographer's block'. A number of photographers have been airing their woes at this phenomenon and offering up their 'cures' for this affliction which seems to affect quite a number at some time  or another.
Toy 'Mozarts', shop window, Salzburg Austria.

For those engaged primarily in 'stock' photography, having to churn out a constant stream of images of almost any subject, that may or may not sell, according to the whims of the 'market', it must seem relentless at times. Under those circumstances I can see how, on occasion, it can become slightly disheartening and enthusiasm wanes a little leading to a period of disillusionment and inactivity. 

It's a truism of course that nothing breeds success like success and a fulfilled, busy and successful career with paying commissions rolling in keeps the mind buzzing with ideas. 
Bluebell woods, Ceredigion, Wales.

For those of us, like myself, for whom stock photography and commissioned work only accounts for a tiny percentage of our photographic output the problems are slightly different. With commissioned work the 'ideas' required are largely ones of interpretation and execution rather than origination. With stock photography the primary motive is to make images that sell - hopefully many times over as individual fees these days are universally low - and across as wide a spectrum of publishing sources as possible. Both printed and electronic. The subjects of course may not necessarily be inspiring to us and it can result in churning out 'potboilers' with which we have no real intellectual connection. 
Illustration for a book cover

For me it all stems from my early, formative years in photography, when my motivation came from looking at the work of the great photographers that impressed me at the time and wanting to make work that might be significant and lasting. It seemed to me then that if I was going to devote my life to photography, why would I bother to spend most of that time churning out stuff that might jade my sensibilities and enthusiasm? Yes, a living had to be made to support - initially maybe - the kind of work I wanted to do. On that basis I acquired many skills over a wide range of photographic subjects so that I could confidently tackle almost anything. 

Cartier-Bresson V&A exhibition catalogue, 1969

I have already written about how seeing the work of Cartier-Bresson in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in 1969 - on my birthday - made me feel as if the work I was doing at the time was a relevant and legitimate path to be following. That my own work, in later years was acquired by the V&A - and many other major institutions and collectors - seemed to justify my single-minded determination to follow my own path through photography and to trust my judgement when it came to originating ides and producing projects. In my early teens I studied the work of people such as Manuel Alvarez Bravo and Bill Brandt. It never, ever occurred to me that many years later my work would be exhibited alongside theirs in the Photographer's Gallery, London. 
Splott, Cardiff, 1969

Is there a moral to all this? People say I have been lucky to keep on doing what I love for nearly sixty years now and to still be working full time on projects, full of ideas for more and to have many ongoing exhibitions and books on the horizon. My answer is that I have stuck doggedly to my original reasons for devoting my life to photography and have always followed my dream. On that basis how can I get a 'block'? I seem to have been on the crest of one wave after another for over fifty years and there is always another coming up.  Maybe some have made more money from the 'potboilers' but photography has provided my living since I was fifteen. I suspect few have been as content as me over such a long period and I regard 'retirement' - full or partial - as surrendering and entering God's waiting room. 

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Never mind the width, feel the quality

In a recent blog I discussed the almost monoculture of the digital image among younger photographers. Not because I am a Luddite or anti progress in technical terms, but due to my sadness that a lot of people are missing out on the various qualities that a photographic image can possess. I say 'various' qualities because most often you hear the term 'quality' in discussions about equipment and it seems to be taken for granted now that there is only one 'quality' by which to compare various makes of cameras and lenses and that is digital quality. I think that's a shame.
Three of my Leicas of different vintages. IIIF from 1955 on the right. 
M2 from 1965 on the left and an M9P from 2012 centre. 

It's true of course that if the final destination of an image is the computer screen, newspaper or magazine page, many subtleties are lost. This has always been true however and it is only by enjoying the variations of qualities in original prints can you appreciate these. 

Photographers used to argue about the relative qualities and differences between, say, Leica and Nikon lenses by looking at prints. Some might argue for the 'sharpness' of a Nikon lens over the perceived smoother quality of the Leica. Tiny, subtle differences that would be lost in newspaper or magazine printing. I was always a Leica person for my 'personal' work, mostly seen as original exhibition prints, although I used Nikons for the 'commercial' stuff I undertook.
My Rolleiflex 'T'

The differences in print quality could also be observed as one used differing formats too of course. 99% of my recent work is undertaken using 10" x 8" but I have also enjoyed and appreciated using other formats over the years. 

Using larger formats is not always just about the extra quality gained, although this will always be an important factor. The actual size and shape of the camera and its format also affects how one approaches and renders any particular subject. I always had a fondness for the square format. Cropping a rectangular image to be square doesn't quite feel the same or work in the same way as composing with a square format camera.
Barber's Shop, Bridge Street, Cardiff, 1969

Making a portrait with a Leica or similar will elicit a different response from the subject than if they were photographed with a larger camera on a tripod. Place an 8" x 10" camera in front of someone and they take notice. You make a different kind of photograph. These various strategies for making images are as an integral part of the process as the look and feel of the final print. You, as a photographer also approach the subject in a different way if you use different equipment. Vilelm Flusser discussed this in his little volume entitled 'Towards a Philosophy of Photography'. With 99% of photographers now using DSLR's these differences of approach have been negated. 

Thankfully I am in the happy position of still being able to use whatever format, approach and medium I feel is appropriate for the project in hand and I have acquired, over many years, the skills to use and appreciate these and their various qualities. 
I'd like to think that the differing qualities of formats and materials still has a place in photography for those who appreciate them and the photograph as an object and in original, hand-made print form. Let's hope we never lose this. There are signs that the pendulum is beginning to swing back a little with sales of silver-based materials rising again from a low point. It would be a shame to see all those wonderful qualities being lost. 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Back into the dark..........

I'm often told, mainly by people who don't know me very well but know I'm a photographer , that "no-one uses film and darkrooms any more do they? Especially now that Kodak has gone bust". When I correct them on both points they usually think I'm nuts, or lying, or both and change the subject. No point in wasting time showing them my (expensive) boxes of recently purchased Kodak 10" x 8" film  or my well-equipped and still well-used darkroom. I leave them to wallow in their ignorance. As for my stock of Ilford black and white film and paper, plus my extensive chemical stock, I don't even bother to go there with them. 
From the series, 'Great Little Tin Sheds of Wales'.
Selenium toned, gelatin - silver print

Just lately I happen to have caught on radio or read articles recently about a number of photographers who have been speaking about their love of darkroom work and the notion of the unique quality of the silver-gelatin print. For many of us, that first magical experience of seeing an image appear in the developing dish in the gloom of the darkroom was what hooked us. 
Part of my darkroom sink

As Sara J Coleman noted in her article about Magnum printer Pablo Inirio, 'Over the last fifteen years, almost every photographer I've interviewed has waxed poetic about that "magical" experience of seeing an image develop in chemicals for the first time. You have to wonder whether today's young photographers will rhapsodize as much about the first time they color-calibrated their monitors'. 

For some reason, in photography, everyone has assumed that the digital / inkjet process has totally supplanted the silver / chemical processes. This does not appear to happen in any other creative medium. You hear painters discuss the relative merits of the various media they have access to; gouache, watercolour, acrylic, oils, etc. Plus the many drawing mediums such as pencil, charcoal, crayon. Sculptors talk about the different qualities of wood, marble, stone, bronze etc. When a new material or process becomes available to them, they see it as a bonus addition, not a complete replacement of the existing. They select the appropriate medium according to the piece of work and its intended destination or the idea they are hoping to express. 
7" x 5" & 10" x 8" enlargers in a corner of my darkroom

There appears to be a new generation of photographers now who have no desire to even begin to understand or use anything other than digital media. While it may be appropriate for a lot of their work, I struggle to understand their total lack of interest or any desire to engage with other aspects of photographic media.  

They are excluding themselves from a rich seam of creativity and expression. Not to mention a still - growing and important market for fine prints. I don't think many of the collectors who acquire my work would be very impressed if I tried to palm them off with an ink-jet print. Even if I gave it a false fancy name so beloved by galleries trying to con clients. - 'giclee'. (It's French for spray, get over yourselves)!
Barbagia, Sardinia.
Selenium toned, gelatin - silver print

I'm glad that I am of that generation who came through some of the big changes in photographic techniques. I saw the huge shift from B&W work in both the commercial world and documentary photography. We learned new techniques and adapted. Ditto with the shifts to digital. I now have all those skills to hand and can use them as appropriate for various bodies of work. I wouldn't have it any other way. Now, I have to get back to my darkroom.............

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The good, the bad and the downright useless

Me at 15, Physics Department Darkroom,
Cardiff University
Many photographers in the past and now, have depended on good technical support. A good technician is worth a lot. I have had the pleasure of working with some of the best and some awful experiences with the worst. I was a photographic technician myself for the first five working years of my life. I was very young and thrown into undertaking important support work for research students at a university, so no room for mistakes or months of work would be ruined. No pressure then! It was an object lesson in understanding what was required without any ambiguity, doing tasks properly and promptly to a high standard and anticipating the various needs. It gave me a great grounding in how to be part of a support team and a lifelong respect for and appreciation of, good technicians. 
Stickle Ghyll, Cumbria

I have always made my own prints and see it as being a seamless section of the whole process. I have also enjoyed learning all the various skills involved and having the maximum control over my work. I also enjoy the alchemy involved, whether it's the chemical or digital kind. However, for all kinds of reasons many well-known photographers have depended on printers for their work and there is no doubt that a good printer is priceless. An understanding of the photographer's work is vital and a sympathy with their style. 
Part of my darkroom chemical shelf

All technicians have their idiosyncrasies but all the good ones I have worked with are fastidious about orderly working methods and consistency. I worked with one who managed to run a very large set of excellent facilities in a university with over 300 students studying photography. How he and his small team did it I don't know. The demands were enormous but everything ran well and chemistry etc. never ran out and equipment always worked. 
Gwynedd, Wales

How different from an earlier experience when I worked as a guest lecturer in a small regional college. The technician there was the most incompetent buffoon that I have ever come across. Everything was constant chaos. Broken and missing equipment, darkrooms in disarray and the chemistry a mess. The students were desperate one afternoon for film developer. There was a queue waiting to process film and he had failed to keep stocks up. He winked at me and said, "watch my secret quick method of mixing developer". He took a 5L plastic bottle and placed it in the sink of a tiny chemical room with no extractor fan. He put a funnel made out of a sheet of stiff A4 paper in the neck of the jug. 
Another part of my darkroom chemical shelf
The next bit is complicated. He turned on the hot tap until it ran almost to boiling point and tipped both parts of the developer powder into the paper funnel; even though it's essential to fully dissolve one before the other. Very quickly he then swung the tap over the funnel, swirling the jug as a sort of attempt at a kind of mixing, while at the same time jabbing at the coagulating powder in the funnel with a wooden ruler to force it down. All this time the powder was blowing up around the room filling it with chemicals. All this had to be completed very quickly before the paper funnel disintegrated. He managed it in about 15 seconds. Quick indeed. What was now in the bottle however, was just a lot of undissolved powder in suspension, in a solution that was about 30 degrees too hot to use. He then went home. The students were distraught. I managed to salvage the situation by spending an hour or so stirring and shaking the solution and then placing the bottle outside in the snow for a while to cool to working temperature so the students could process their films. 

You may think that someone like this had no future. You would be wrong. He is now the chief technician in charge of the photographic department of a major police force. The mind boggles.