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Today, we’re featuring a fantastic series from photographer Dominic Whiten. Dominic photographed his hometown of Aldeburgh, England on medium format film and then used a process of degrading the negatives after development to add depth and texture to the images.
Scroll below to view the series and read an essay from Dominic about Aldeburgh and the creation of this series.
In the spring of 2021, I moved home to Aldeburgh, a small town on the east coast of England.
Aldeburgh is a place which exudes genteel charm. Originally an Elizabethan trading and shipbuilding port, over the years it’s become a popular holiday destination and is these days best known as the home of 20th century composer Sir Benjamin Britten and the annual classical music festival he helped found here.
I’ve always been interested in finding connections with my local environment. During childhood, I moved home with my family every couple of years. My way of gaining a sense of place was to get out and explore, by bike or foot, from an early age with camera in hand. In later life, I look back and recognize this as a form of psychogeographic prospecting – surveying the bounds of my world to find my position within it.
‘I count only the bright hours’ takes its title from the Latin inscription found on a sun dial high on Aldeburgh’s Moot Hall (an old term for town hall), which dates from the 16th century.
Using a Bronica S2 medium format camera (made in the year of my birth, but looking considerably less work than me), I began shooting on variety of expired 120 films I’d been gifted by two fellow photographers. Using out of date and unwanted film was a deliberate act, motivated by a desire to avoid using additional, precious, natural resources.
My early working life was spent working in darkrooms and processing labs, a formative experience which tugs at me across the intervening years. It felt appropriate to develop and scan the film myself as a nod to my personal history and reminder of a previous way of working.
However, the images I’d made didn’t feel fully resolved or ‘quite there.’ Inspired by Stephen Gill’s ‘Best Before End’ series, I began experimenting with degrading the negatives in seawater collected from the beach. Through a repeated process of adding drops of water then letting them dry, a layer of salt built up on the negatives which had the effect of degrading the emulsion and altering the color.
Whilst there’s plenty of resource available about ‘souping’ film prior to development, there’s very little about post-process methods. Trial and error found a happy medium between creating enough effect before the emulsion simply slides off the film.
The resulting images are an exploration of ephemerality and mortality. Aldeburgh is on a coastline which has always been in a state of flux. Large areas of low-lying land around the town are at risk of flooding as sea levels rise. Similarly the coast itself has shifted and moved over the centuries with the nearby town of Dunwich having almost completely disappeared into the sea.
‘I count only the bright hours’ forms the basis of an ongoing project which explores place and the individual histories which co-exist and overlap within it.
Thank you so much, Dominic! You can find more of Dominic’s work on Instagram.