Sketching Photographs


I like film photography because I have a film camera (it used to belong to my father) and because a film negative is tangible. I can touch it. But I don’t have a fully equipped dark room, and I need some way to turn 35 mm negatives into prints.

I tried digitally scanning negatives and then having a third party make larger prints. I was unsatisfied with my lack of control over the printing process. (Though it is much easier to share a scanned negative than physical objects. All images in here were obtained by scanning negatives.)

I am now experimenting with the following method: I use a Durst F60 film enlarger (purchased off Ebay for $50 + $20 shipping) to project negatives onto ordinary paper. I then sketch over the projection using Sharpie markers. The image above is a scan of a sketch of a photograph. I took the photograph sometime in 2010 of the Lillian H. Smith Library on College St. in Toronto. (It’s one of my favorite library buildings.)

I enjoy this process. I have greater control and I can leave out unnecessary details, focusing on the image that I wanted to capture. (It was only later that I found out about things such the Artograph Tracer, which allows one to do exactly what I’m doing here.)

A neat technical aside: it takes me on the order of hours to produce these sketches, and light sources in enlargers (generally 75 W incadescent light bulbs) will overheat if left on for that long. To counter that, I’ve fitted my Durst with a 14 W Sylvania 78911 LED lightbulb. It produces the same amount of light as a 60 W incadescent for a fraction of the heat.


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