A quick interview with acclaimed pinhole photographer Marisa Writing from twitter about her recent experiments developing Kodak Kodabrome paper in a mixture of mint, vitamin c, and baking soda.
GB: What inspired you to try to develop film with mint and vitamin C?
MW: After about the third week of being in lockdown, I felt the need to learn something new so that I could focus on something else other than the pandemic. I had an idea about making photos using items that are already in the house. So I started searching online for alternative methods of developing and ran across a PDF file for using mint, vitamin C and baking soda. Our garden has a ton of mint already, so it was perfect.
GB: How do you get the mint ready to use?
MW: I slip on clogs and go out to the garden and clip a bunch then place it like a flower arrangement in a recycled jam jar. I leave it there for a couple of days to dry out, then chop it up and place into about 1 cup of water and boil for 15 minutes. It smells just like mint tea.
GB: That may be the best smelling film developer ever. What film are you developing in it?
MW: It is! It smells much better than caffenol. A friend, Jason (@13Stoploss on Instagram) sent me a big box of unopened, expired Kodak Kodabrome RC paper and the idea was that I could use it to pinhole (thank you Jason!). The paper is very slow (guessing ISO-4ish) so the exposures are taking a while (10 seconds – 16 hours depending on the camera). I haven’t tried a roll of film yet. Also, the paper negatives aren’t being “fixed” so they disappear after a few days or so, but I’m ok with that.
GB: 16 hours is long! Are you shooting pinhole?
MW: I’m making pinhole cameras out of recycled cans and cracker boxes. I’m also using my Terrapin Bijou from @theschlem and my broken Diana. I’m finding broken cameras can still take photos.
GB: Sometimes cameras only achieve greatness after they break. You mentioned that because you don’t fix them the images just fade away. Do they look cool faded?
MW: Since the image shows up as a negative on the paper, sometimes it’s difficult to make out what it is until it’s scanned in. So, when they begin to fade to a grayish- blue, it becomes even more difficult to make out what it is/was. Feels like the perfect reflection of what’s going on right now. Blurry, fuzzy, not sharp or focused, faded.
GB: It sort of reminds me of that limited edition Polaroid film called Fade to Black that would slowly fade to black. Can you send me an example of a huge success and a huge fail?
MW: I never got to try that film! Yes… ok, here’s a huge hallway with toilet paper. Exposure: 14 hours. Using a cracker box.
GB: That is pretty cool and 14 hours is a long time.
MW: This was a fail as it had to sit in the developer for over 25 minutes before anything showed. You can see that the paper started to break down a bit. This photo was taken with the Holga and I am guessing I didn’t expose the paper long enough.
GB: I can clearly see a person who looks like you so I wouldn’t consider it a fail. What would you tell someone who wants to try developing film in mint and vitamin C?
MW: Patience. Be patient. When I use this developer mix, it takes about 15 – 20 minutes of sitting in the developer for an image to start to appear. Overall, this may change how I photograph and document in the future as it’s nice to know it’s a bit more kind to the environment.
GB: Thank you for answering my questions.
Guide to making your own pinhole camera and mint developer.