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New windows, Malmesbury, UK [Alamy image ref. ANBG7K]

Last week I wrote that most photographers, at some time during their passion, take shots of windows. For many this subject develops into a theme or collection… and I’ve been doing that for at least forty years and don’t feel like stopping.

Accumulations as such may build-up slowly if not thought of as specific themes… until one day you realize you have many, many examples. As far back as 25 years ago I was unaware of how many window shots I had saved until I grouped them together with the idea of producing a slide show (I think it was fellow Nikon UK lecturer Richard Tucker who produced excellent “slide-dissolve” shows with multiple projectors that influenced me in that direction) but when carefully slotted into A4 hanging clear slide files they numbered more than 400.

It was at that point I knew I had to stop… or start to edit very carefully. Editing one’s images was far slower in the film age… I’m not sure whether photographers generally took fewer shots in those days – whilst film and processing was expensive,there was also the tendency to overshoot multiple angles in case of missing something (no instant-replay visual feedback in those days) as well as take multiple shots of the same scene/subject with bracketed exposures for safety… not to mention the doubling-up of colour transparency/negative and black-and-white materials of the same subject with two cameras!

I eventually cut my “usable” collection down to under one hundred examples… of which about half were successfully scanned on a Nikon Coolscan V 35mm film scanner for uploading to Alamy. It is hard word taking this route… film scanning is fraught with difficulties as well as many frustrating minutes and hours of image correction because of dust, fingerprint blemish and possible tramline scratch corrections.

Because of the “imperfections” with 35mm film scans I took the debatable decision to register al mine – some 250 or so – as Royalty Free… using the rational that they were dated subjects and would probably be used small. However, some of my RF sales have been my outright best-sellers in money terms bordering the $500 mark for single image sales… whilst others have been at the bottom of the barrel at one-hundredth of the top figure… yep, go figure!

In fact I have made the decision to gradually remove all my RF images with Alamy and re-register them as RM… I prefer to know their usages rather than be left guessing forever with “unlimited use” licences. An annoyance which I hope is never repeated was when after a Royalty Free image that had been zoomed six months ago (thus an established registered buyer), was licensed three months ago… and then refunded a couple of weeks ago. For an RF image to have a refund after three months in the client’s hands with potentially unlimited use during that time does not sound like correct or ethical business to me. And, as the sum was for only $6 or so it makes me wonder how Alamy could allow not only this refund, but the sale in the first place when their commission would only have been around $2.50 which would be more than their overheads for the actual transaction. I mean, there is a minimum charge for most things nowadays… like when did your plumber last charge $2.50 for turning up at your house to replace a simple tap-washer?

The image was licensed around 30 years after I took it with a Nikon F2 and 28mm lens but as a 4mb file – scanned using a Nikon Coolscan V from the original transparency – by Alamy RF under my “UK Scenes” pseudonym.

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Cyanotype Nat.West Tower, London. [Alamy image ref. AR6P2R]

In this day and age of digital photography when everyone and their sister is able to capture pretty good images, the traditional silver-based and even older alternative photo processes have not so much as taken a back seat but been half-lowered into a grave already filled with discarded enlargers, trays and developing tanks. Printing processes which some of us laboured over for hours – or for days with certain complex techniques involving multiple coatings and repeated exposures of emulsions – basically attract little or no attention from younger image makers who are creating their own “photo art” with iPhones and “Instamatic” or “Hipstamatic” software plug-ins and producing exaggerated colour, distressed, soft, vignetted images in under a minute which are much more appealing to their rebellious nature… and discarded an instant later having been consumed and forgotten (or embedded on Facebook, Flickr and/or Tumblr). I suppose the equivalent in the 60s was when a bunch of us thought we were breaking the mould by exposing Tri-X at 6400, processing it in some off-beat at the time American developer like Acufine, and printing the contrasty negatives on grade 5 paper. OK, I exaggerate, but… I sometimes feel I could easily gotten back into Tri-X and black-and-white printing had I not sold my Durst Multigraph 1200 Labarator a year or so ago to a pro in Paris who was definitely going in the right direction with his photography… backwards!

As to traditional alt.photos – not the Hipstamatic alternatives produced on iPhones – I still have a folio of prints, both made by me and collected from others, ranging from platinums to cyanotypes and three-colour gums to Polaroid Transfers. A couple of years ago I scanned a selection of my own alt.photo works – using an old Canon A4 flat-bed scanner – and submitted them as potential stock to Alamy… the above Cyanotype (or Blueprint) of the National Westminster Tower nearing completion in the City of London taken in 1976 on a Hasselblad SWC selling quite quickly under my “Beaux Arts” pseudo for a world-wide published book as a double-page spread on a 15-year licence.

Although a traditional black-and-white version of the image has sold a few times throughout the intervening years… it was a pleasant surprise to know the latest sale has been for a version printed by a technique established and frequently used well before the birth of photography using a reusable reprintable negative by Fox Talbot in 1839.

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