This post is about my involvement in the Obsolete & Discontinued project driven every step of the way by Mike Crawford, London based photographer and expert printer. O&D has just had its first exhibition in the former textile plant warehouse Can Manyer at the Releva-T analogue photography festival in Vilassar de Dalt, Spain.
I met Mike Crawford a few years ago at PhotoChats darkroom where I have been involved in the archival project about the history of Chats Palace and the community arts in East London. Last year I was fixing the darkroom in the basement of what used be the Nevill Arms pub in Stoke Newington, and asked Mike to pop over. That chilly day in March I discovered a few packets of old photographic paper and was printing some tests.
And here comes Mike saying he has been been given boxes of expired paper (at least 20 or 30 years old) by a client from his late uncle’s darkroom. Mike shows me his first test prints to investigate the condition of the paper – some are in fine condition, others have heavy fog. The latter turn out to be amenable to lith developer – something that I later try with the foggy paper I found at the Nevill.
Mike says that he is currently having discussions with the London Alternative Photography Collective to share out the paper amongst the members. After seeing these results and putting together a comprehensive proposal, Mike unveils the idea at the LAPC meeting to give out batches of paper to photographic artists with an open brief to produce any type of work they wish. The idea is immediately appealing and many sign up to participate in the project, myself included. The rest is history!
In Autumn 2010 I am visiting a friend in Crimea. I go for long walks in the mountains overlooking the sea. Here and then I photograph and think about my grandfather who was born and grew up near by. What was it like? I know so little about his early years and so my imagination fills the void.
A few years later I am sitting in my uncle’s house going through the family archives. I find postcards sent by my great-grandmother in Summer 1941. In the last one she writes about not wanting to leave her home and part with the piano. I also find a letter from which I learn that in 1940 during his summer break from uni my grandfather came to visit his mother together with his then girl-friend (who then became his wife and my grandmother). It was the last time he saw his mother who was tragically killed a year later when Crimea was occupied. It is the first time that I hear that my great-grandmother was a piano teacher and that she was murdered. From what I know my grandfather never talked about his past with his sons. I ask my dad – he thinks that for my grandfather there was life ‘before’ and life ‘after’.
Mike mentions Kodak Bromide Grade 2 is possibly of military issue and so I decide to print the Crimea photograph taken in 2010 at the time when I did not know about my family past nor what was to come between Russia and Ukraine.