Art or Luck

What are these ? Here is the story. In 1988 I went to Sydney with my young son Daniel to see the Australian Bicentenary celebrations. It was a happy day on Sydney Harbour and I shot a lot of 35mm slide film. Later, some were put in slide mounts but the remainder were left in the long plastic sleeves from the lab.

Several years later I found them in the garage, severely damaged. What happened? My belief is that leaking rain water created an environment for bacteria which ate the organic gelatin emulsion (made from animal products). Once the gelatin was gone, the dyes of the image were free to move around. Further rain probably created movement. With the photographic dyes unhooked from their role as registers of optical reality, you realise how gorgeous the palette is. It’s luck rather than art, but many students I’ve shown them to have been convinced I was a painter before turning to photography.

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