For those of you who follow our posts regularly you will be aware that our BTEC L2 Art and Design students are currently undergoing a photography project entitled 'distortion'. They're having great fun experimenting with different darkroom approaches and their outcomes looked so good that I thought I would share with you what they did.
Starter: Video on artist Timothy Pakron
The following video is a great introduction to the work of Timothy Pakron and provides students with the artists technique and process. I like to set students a list of questions to answer through/after the video to check their understanding of what they have just watched. I find it really enforces the purpose of the lesson and gives you a second chance to re-cap darkroom techniques!
Warm up: Ink splat experiments
In students sketchbooks/blank paper get them to experiment with black ink by dripping, flicking, painting and sponging ink into their sketchbook. I normally get students to spend about 30 secs - 1 min on each experiment and explain the importance of really trusting their initial judgements. This exercise is all about having fun and not making everything perfect - you could even bring in different directional mark making techniques and text if you had enough time! If I can I try to join in to as students love to see how you respond to artists work to!
Main: Timothy Pakron inspired selective developing
darkroom set up
For this activity I split the session into three parts so students can work through each experiment at their own speed. I find this works best as students can be cautious at first but as they create more they tend to 'loosen' up and be more experimental, combining ideas and techniques as they go along.
1) Selective developing: Get students to experiment with developer by sponging, spraying, painting and dripping chemicals onto their selective enlargements in the style of Timothy Pakron. I like to remind students here of the ink splat experiments they just did in class!
2) Stencil prints: I find it easier to pre-cut stencils into geometric shapes/random patterns myself first due to time but, you could embed this into part of your lesson if you preferred. Once students have selectively enlarged their negative and have the correct exposure get them to place a stencil directly onto their photographic paper. Expose, develop, stop, fix and wash as normal. The results will depend on how complex the subject matter is but overall students like the simple, abstract approach!
3) Press printing: I love this technique! Students just need to choose an object (they could even use their hand if they wanted!) and expose the image onto photo paper as usual. Once the image has been exposed, dip the object into the developer and press it firmly onto the paper - holding for about 30 secs. The image will appear in the shape of your object! By the time students get to this part of the lesson they start combining the three techniques together and the results are really promising.
I always like to end the lesson on a high so take one of two approaches in a class exhibition. I would recommend either showcasing your students wonderful outcomes simply in a group critique by discussing how they could 'distort' or 'enhance' the images further. Or, if you would prefer you could make this more interactive by getting students to select their best work and install it on the floor or walls. Students then move around the room responding to questions that you ask and moving to the 'best' or 'needs improvement' pieces of work. Selective developing is a reasonably fast process so if your students are keen they will want to go back into the darkroom to try out further experiments that others have recommended in the discussions!
Enjoy - you won't be able to resist getting stuck in and having a go yourself!
- Kirsty ❤