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Stunning direct-positive portrait photos taken in Afghanistan


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Marine and photographer M. Patrick Kavanaugh has captured a series of impressive direct-positive portrait photos of other marines while being deployed in Afghanistan.

We have seen photographers bringing older photography tools to the modern battlefield before. Ed Drew has used tintype to capture positive exposures directly on metal sheets. It appears that tintype has not been used in a warfare-affected area since the US Civil War in the 19th century.

M. Patrick Kavanaugh captures direct-positive portrait photos using Sinar F2 large-format film camera

It is time for another soldier to bring a rather different camera setup to the battlefield. His name is M. Patrick Kavanaugh and he has been recently deployed to Afghanistan on short notice. However, he said that he believed this to be the right opportunity to pack an unusual photography gear.

As a result, a Sinar F2 large-format film camera has made its way in a war zone. This device usually captures photos on 4×5-inch film, but our dear photographer has had other plans in mind. Instead of film, Kavanaugh has brought photographic paper with him, allowing the marine to experiment with direct-positives.

Ilford photographic paper was chosen instead of regular 4×5-inch film

In order to obtain a direct-positive on the Ilford-made paper, the photographer had also brought some chemicals with him. It appears that the paper should have been washed prior to shooting, but Kavanaugh has decided against it, therefore his shots have “that” nice yellow tint.

Additionally, the chemicals have had to be heated up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, while the brush has ensures the scuffing. The total time of developing stands at approximately 15 minutes. The images are not crystal-clear, but they have that old look to them and they are impressively artistic.

after-shift Stunning direct-positive portrait photos taken in Afghanistan Exposure

Digital portrait of a Russian-born US Marine after shift in Afghanistan. Credits: M. Patrick Kavanaugh. (Click to make it larger.)

His digital photos are just as impressive as his direct-positive portraits

M. Patrick Kavanaugh says that he feels sorry that he has only taken 60 sheets of paper with him. About half the photos he has captured were completely unusable, meaning that the marine still has a lot of work to do before perfecting his metallic-like photography.

Either way, he has done a great job considering the harsh conditions. He has also captured some digital shots. Unsurprisingly, they are pretty cool and it appears that his fellow marines have appreciated his photographic contribution.

The images are available at Kavanaugh’s personal Flickr account, which is worth giving a closer look. On the other hand, the direct-positive portrait photos from Afghanistan can be purchased at SmugMug.

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