Crossing Over





I think I first heard about cross processing back in the late 1980’s. This trend, or style, was based on using one type of color film, such as color negative, and processing it in chemistry designed for another style of color film, such as color positive. Each film responded differently, with the older films tending to be better options, due to their profound change when processed in a chemistry not native to their original design. Newer films were more technically advanced and could handle the changes in chemistry, exactly what the cross-processing photographer didn’t want.

Kodak EPP was the film of choice for many crossers, and in fact, there were many photographers, who for certain periods of time, seemed to do nothing else. Cross-processing, was and is, a fad, but for a time had a significant place in the photo-industry.

Cross-processing was also the first time I heard the term, “One tricky pony,” describing these photographers who shot everything with this method. For some reason this look was popular with young, fashion, portrait, celebrity style shooters, but eventually became accepted in genres as traditionally conservative as the wedding and portrait world.

Crossing faded from view after editors and like began to tire of the look, but in the 90’s crossing returned with a vengeance. But, at the same time digital imaging land, full-scale on the scene, and suddenly anything could be a “crossed-look.” I can remember clients saying, “Let’s just do digital and play around with it to get that crossed look.”

And now, for many folks, there is no reason to even do cross-processed imagery. Nowadays, many images for commercial use are processed far beyond anything crossing a film could produce. I routinely see images in contests, images featured in magazines, that are processed almost beyond recognition.

And so with the new age of over-manipulation, I’m thinking the cross is a great symbol to usher in the death of cross-processing.

These images were done a few years back, with a Fuji transparency film, processed in C-41 chemistry. Not sure I like the look at all.

I was never a big cross guy, but did see some beautiful EPP crossed photography that was done very well. I’m not even sure EPP is still around, but this film, even in it’s original state, was a LEGEND of our industry, and is one of the most significant films ever produced. I have many stories of this film, but those I’ll leave for another time.

Makes You Stop And Wonder

The work is not only iconic, it’s incredibly well done. Is timeless the best way I can describe it? No, it doesn’t really do it justice. Neither do these crumby, fake polaroids shot on my phone, but I’m asking a temporary forgiveness until I get my camera back, or camera going I should say.

Herman Leonard, 85, is a legend in the music business, and photography world for that matter, but I think the foundation of his success is the music. I’m not sure if he plays, or ever has, but his images of music are impossible to forget. Black and white, mostly medium to large format, and dripping with smoke and history, these pictures are forever a part of the world’s collective knowledge of music. Sarah, Dizzy, Louis, Lena, Billie, and most importantly, Miles, all I need to mention.

Leonard began in the 40’s when race was a dominant card, but somehow managed to connect, even when someone like Lena couldn’t share a drink with him after the shoot because she could not sit in the general admission area due to her skin color.

Sitting and listening to Herman I am conflicted. I am in absolute awe of the ability to make these pictures, and the more you know about them, the more, if you know ANYTHING about photography, you realize were even more difficult than they look. Two, three, four sheets of 4×5 at a time, and that’s it. Strobes hidden as they popped into life freezing time capsules as Herman hid backstage. But I am also sad because I know these days are gone, both in music and photography.

Intimate is SO rare these days, a development of our own fabrication, and now we pay the consequences of short attention spans, everything rushed and on deadline, creating a shallowness that forces our mind to drift and our eyes to look away.

I’m conflicted because Herman is so good, so nice and there will be not be another.

I made many, many notes of this event, which I had planned to share, but someone saved us from this translation. In the audience were relatives of Miles Davis, and friends of Miles, one of whom stood up and said, “I was friends with Miles, and Herman, you were special to him.” There isn’t anything I can say better than that, so if you haven’t had a chance to see Herman’s work, I urge you to do so.

I should also mention Leonard was not alone on this day, but was speaking with Brian Cross, who goes by the name B+, another LA based photographer, but someone who originates from Ireland. Brian, soft spoken and modest, had the difficult task of following Leonard. B+ has spent the better part of the last ten years, perhaps more, shooting and living in the world of Hip Hop, and like Leonard has an intimacy with his associates that doesn’t come along every day.

The adjacent studio at the Pacific Design center held B+’s show, which was a fluid, active presentation, that to me was subtle in print size, but proved to me one simple thing…he is a photographer and not a showman. Many of Brian’s images are simple, quiet moments, as opposed to huge, lit, large crew, overdone music pictures that we are so fond of assigning these days. Through his images you could tell that B+ was a guy you would love to hang out with, someone that had one version of himself, not one public and one private. It also showed me that he also has a camera all the time, not just when he is on assignment, and that is something I really respect.

I’ll leave you with a quote from Brian, who said when asked, “What would life be without photography?”

“That isn’t an option,” he said.