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Obsolete & Discontinued

Mike Crowford

„Every time I find a paper or film I like, they discontinue it.“

— Paul Strand

In March 2015, a client gave me a quantity of old photographic paper and film. He had been clearing out his late uncle’s darkroom and decided I could either have it all or it would be thrown out. Over two visits I received a number of boxes and packets of material, the majority of which were papers that had ceased production many years ago. Most were at least 20 or 30 years old, indeed some far older. I sifted through boxes of familiar names such as Kodak Bromesko and Agfa Brovira considering what I should do with them.

Out of interest, I tested some of the paper in the darkroom. I was surprised at how well some of the older material printed. With further testing, it appeared that some paper, which was fogged and had proved useless with conventional developers, could produce quite interesting and compelling results using different processes such as lith printing. After conversations with fellow members of the London Alternative Photographic Collective, I decided it might be of interest to give out the paper to different photographers and artists to see what individual results each could produce.

Within a few months there were over 50 participants who had heard of the project and were interested in taking part. After testing and cataloguing the different papers, I distributed them to a wide variety of practitioners, not only in the UK, but also to many overseas. From this point it was down to their skill and creativity to produce work from the supplied paper and film.

This proposal documents the results from the first sixteen participants and clearly shows the diversity possible using traditional photographic methods, especially given that all were produced using brands of paper and film that are either obsolete or discontinued. In many cases both. It is hoped that we will be able to exhibit prints from all the participants once the project is complete. All the material came from the darkroom of a painter, Bret Sampson, via his nephew David Yates who we thank for initiating what has become a fascinating exploration into the possibilities of the analogue photographic process. As Bret had spent much of his working life as an art teacher, it is sincerely hoped he would have approved of the inspiration and work produced by the paper he left behind.

— A collaborative proposal, December 2015

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