Every so often, I think about traveling outside the normal, accepted boundaries and rules of film photography. I’ve crammed two rolls of 35mm film into a 120 camera and taken pictures that expose both rolls at the same time. That was fun. I’ve left a camera shutter open for hours so that I could capture the subtle streaks of the path of stars in the sky. Also fun.
Now I’m going to play with something called XPRO. No, that’s not a knockoff video game system, nor is it a Mexican radio station.
Follow along with me.
Depending on the type of film you shoot with, there are three different film development processes. Film that would produce a negative is developed with a “C-41” process. Slide film is developed with an “E-6” process. Black and white film has its own distinct processing formula (and yes, it’s called “B&W”). There was another process called “K-14”, but that ended last December. Why? Think about what the “K” in “K-14” stands for. Wink.
But what if you were to take a roll of slide film and develop it with the chemicals used for standard film? It would be akin to taking a paint-by-numbers easel out of one box and the paint cuplets from another box, and using the paint cuplets from Box #2 to paint the picture from Box #1.
Welcome, my friends, to the world of XPRO. XPRO, short for “cross-processing,” means that you choose to develop your film in a process that wasn’t originally designed for that film.
I put a roll of Kodak Ektachrome 120 slide film into the Rolleiflex and, on a snowy December afternoon, took some pictures around downtown Albany.
Then I took the roll over to McGreevy Pro Lab and asked them to develop the roll – not as a standard E-6 roll, but instead as a roll of C-41 film.
Now one of several things will happen.
1. I will probably destroy every shot on this roll.
2. I will definitely destroy every shot on this roll.
3. Something’s going to come back that looks entirely different than anything I’ve ever photographed before – something surreal, dreamlike, an alternate vision of what we normally see.
Such is the subgenre of the “lomography” photography movement, in which the final product is created by both the skill of the photographer and by the randomness of the production process.
So this is what came out of my efforts. Here’s the building at 79 North Pearl Street – you know, the building that hosts the Bayou Cafe.
Here’s the Palace Theater, cross-processed.
There’s a stained glass window for J.S. Flood, who operated a barbershop at the Palace Theater.
Here’s the First Church in Albany (Reformed) in a cross-processed photo.
The stately Kenmore Hotel, home of the famous Rain-Bo Room…
I realized that there would be more contrast if I photographed these images with a blue or a semi-cloudy sky. At the time I took those photos, the skies were snowy white. I did get one shot off, however, later in the day.
And there is my first attempt at cross-processing or “XPRO” development. I may do this again, and maybe I’ll see how things turn out with it. This could be a lot of fun for future photography projects.