Paddy is a science teacher at the school where I work and a friend I’ve known for years. He likes:
- Star Wars
- American Football
I’m an English teacher. I like:
- Star Wars
Besides Star Wars, the friendship is mostly based on us both being decent blokes. But recently, we found a new area where, in the Venn diagram of our interests, there is a crossover. You may have guessed already:
Caffenol is a developing formula made from coffee and soda crystals. The addition of Vitamin-C improves the process somewhat, hence Caffenol-C. Mads Madison has written a great article for EMULSIVE on the process of developing and printing using coffee, beetroot juice, carrot juice, and even mouthwash. Paddy recommended the YouTube video by coffee aficionado James Hoffman. After watching this, I wanted to try too.
Before attempting it myself, I felt like I needed some training and so signed up for an online course with Melanie King. A specialist in alternative photography processes with a focus on astronomical photography, she’s also an expert at Caffenol development.
It’s fair to say that you’ll be able to find most things on the internet and the Caffenol Cookbook is a good place to start. I would recommend doing a course with Melanie though, because she gives many good tips, and takes you through the process clearly so that you feel confident trying it at home yourself. Before I get into that, time for some results.
As it happens, I didn’t need to make it in the bathroom at home (it smells pretty funky) as we could use the lab at school. So, one Tuesday night in November after all the kids had gone home, Paddy and I set up in the tech area at the back of the lab, put gaffer tape over the exit lights and sealed the windows.
In terms of chemistry, all the stuff can be found on the high street. The one thing you will need is a Paterson tank, which you can find pretty cheaply online. I would also recommend buying fixer. You can make this using salt but getting ILFORD fixer will reduce the time of the process. I purchased it from Analogue Wonderland, where you can also get Paterson tanks and other equipment.
I won’t bore you with the details – these are all online – but the process is pretty straightforward and, most of all, quite fun. We developed the film, hung it up to dry and came back the next day to find lovely scratchy, watermarked negatives.
For those who love the physical element of analogue photography and enjoy the imperfect homemade quality of the results, I would definitely recommend it.
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