Burying Film

From: Ken Paul Rosenthal (email suppressed)
Date: Thu Oct 29 2009 - 14:40:53 PDT

hi lisa,
i've done an extensive amount of experimentation with burying over the years--in soil and sand--as well as composting--berries, herbs, seaweed, etc. while i've primarily worked with a processed image, i've also used black (acetate) leader which has emulsion.
apart from whatever differences camera stock vs processed film could offer you just in terms of their materiality, i suggest that you simply base your 'need' on whether or not you wish to manipulate apre-shot image or produce a purely abstract one.
in regard to how long to bury the film, the degree of moisture and texture of the ground are most critical. regarding the latter, for example, if you bury it in sand vs soil, the latter may evidence a finer texture. experiment with small pieces first. and i generally found slightly damp conditions to be 'optimal' with a burying period of just 3 days.
when you remove it, i suggest not pulling it out like a bird pulls a worm. the emulsion will be so soft, the image will squeegee right off. instead, dig around it, cup your hands and pull out the surrounding area. don't wash it, because everything will slide right off. let it dry in the sun or blow dry it--then wash it. in my experience, it won't wash off the second time it's dampened.
lastly, it's easy to forget where one buries the film! i used to make a little marker from a short section of coat hanger and flag the top inch with white paper tape. be careful at the ocean! the tide will snatch your film! even if you bury it 3 feet down, 50 yards from the shoreline! oh--and don't leave flags where people might step on them.
have fun...ken
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