#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 47

#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 47

Day 47

‘100ml in that one,’ I mutter to myself as I pour blood red chemical into a measuring jug. ‘20ml in that one.’ I hold my hand steady over the small cup. ‘And into the bottle.’

I add water, give it a swirl, and close the lid securely.

One more bottle to go and the chemistry to develop my film will be ready. This last one is easy. There is only one bottle of chemicals to mix with water. Developer, fixer, and stabiliser are now ready, lined up on the white ceramic of the bath.

I take a moment to look at the bottles. Dark blue, red, and light blue. They use to hold water for my cycling journeys, the ‘Cycle Touring Festival’ label proudly drawn on them. Now they hold chemicals and will never be used again for drinking.

In the study, I throw the developing tank, developing reels, and film in my dark bag. I think of Nikki who gifted it to me. I had to tighten the arms for fear of light getting through the loose fittings, but otherwise, this old bag is as good as ever. In the dark, I unspool a roll of 120 film. I have never developed 120 before and I’m sure how it will feel. Slowly, I peel apart the backing paper, trying to feel for a negative. I unroll some more until finally I sense a second layer between my hands. I find the edges of the spool and wind the film on. I put it in the tank, click the funnel into place, and finally the lid. I slide my hands out of the bag, open the zip at the back and grab the tank. The backing paper falls on the floor, limp and twisting onto itself. I let it be and head back to the bathroom.

I pour boiling water in a large dish. In the middle, I carefully place a plastic jug filled with 600ml of cold water. I need it to go from 20°C to 30°C. I watch the needle on the thermometer go up and up until finally I reach the desired temperature. I pour the water in the developing tank and let it sit for five minutes. While the film gets a wash, I pour the developing solution in the plastic jug and warms the liquid. As it reaches the temperature, I take the plastic jug out, the thermometer resting on its spout. The chemistry should not go below 30°C but there is still two minutes to go on the timer for the water. My eyes dance between the timer and the thermometer until finally the alarm on my phone rings. I spur into action. Out with the water, in with the developer. I press start on my phone timer and begin to agitate the tank for a minute. I put it down and dip the bleach-fix (blix) solution in the hot water bath. I pick up the tank again, my eyes fixed to the thermometer, and carry on the back and forth, up and down motions with my hands. I repeat gestures I have seen in YouTube videos, unsure they are correct. There is only one way to find out. Eight minutes later, I slowly pour the developer back into the dark blue bottle. It’s the turn of blix now, the dark red colour of the chemicals making it look like thin blood going into the tank.

The bleach-fix chemicals back into its bottle, I put the tank in the sink and run water over it. The guidelines advise to let the water run for six continuous minutes but all I cannot bring myself to let the water run for so long. Instead I pour water in, turn off the tap, slosh the water about in the tank, and pour it out. I repeat the process until the water comes out clear a few times in a row. One last set of chemicals to use and I will be able to see the results. I pour the stabiliser in, agitate for a minute, let it stand for a minute. There are bubbles in the funnel when I open the tank. It makes me smile. I pour the stabiliser back into its container and take the funnel out of the tank.

I carefully take the reel out and unspool the film. There are images! I am surprised at the results. Everything had gone wrong with this roll when I shot it. I loaded it wrong in the camera, overexposed the first shots massively, and ended up with a ‘fat’ roll when taking it out of the camera creating light leaks at the edges of the film. It’s a ridiculously messed up negative but there are undeniable images on it. I hang it on a makeshift line with paper clips, run the squeegee over it a few times to get rid of as much moisture as possible, and shine a light behind the frames. I count at least three exposures on one. I wonder if any of them will be a ‘happy’ accident but know that it most likely won’t be.

‘Next roll,’ I order as I enter the study. I lift it from the floor and chuck it into the dark bag to repeat the entire process. It is near 7pm when I walk out of the bathroom, every surface cleaned, every utensils washed and drying on the floor. Four rolls of 120 negative hang over the bath. It must have been 3pm when I began the process. I don’t believe it took me an hour to develop each roll. I know it hasn’t but somehow, I am standing here four hours later, most of Sunday gone. And I smile. Sunday is coming to a close, the week-end over soon, and I have not felt caged or restless. I have been too absorbed in developing my rolls of films, too focused on not spilling one drop of chemicals, to let any other thoughts enter my mind. I know I will not be able to repeat the process every week-end. I have only four (five if you count the one in my camera) rolls of film left to develop and being 35mm, I will be able to do them in two sessions. Nonetheless, this has set a precedent, a possibility of being okay again during the week-ends.

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