Back in 1967, Karl Ferris, who I here dub "The Godfather of Color Infrared", made the seminal color infrared image for the debut release of The Jimi Hendrix Experience. In the 1970's, Elliott Landy made infrared portraits of Bob Dylan, The Band, Johnny Lee Hooker, Van Morrison and more. Marcus Keef's brilliant infrared work for Vertigo Records produced some of the most iconic LP covers ever. By the mid 1970's though, the use of color infrared film was rare. Kodak continued to produce it in 135 format straight through to the millennium, but no one really noticed and it was consigned to hobbyists. The retro of the 1990's really set everything up for re-introducing color infrared, but for some reason it never happened.
This Aerochorme infrared project began in 2007 when it was clear that Kodak would stop making Kodak EIR 135 color infrared film. By this time no one at all was remotely interested in color infrared film. So much so that Kodak discontinued it. It was then that I uncovered Aerochrome. This is large bulk film that is generally not available to the public. The idea was to cut it down to meduim and small formats and see if it worked out. I was amazed by the results and in many ways it was better than the old EIR. It was a completely different emulsion. I made a decision to cut a ton of it down.
The first 3 years of the project were pretty bad. I sat on 5000 rolls for a long time. Bizarre actually. Just about every photo forum banned me for spamming just by talking about it. So getting the word around was hard. I ended up just giving the first few hundred rolls away, knowing someone would take some fab photos and be as amazed like I was.
Aerochrome film records ultraviolet light, visible light and infrared light. It is not just the infrared light that is being captured. But since infrared light is invisible to the eye, we never know really how much of it there is in a given situation. It is as ever-changing as visible light, so chasing after it is impossible. A better approach is to expose the film for the visible light keeping in mind that there is this hidden factor.
My original goal for taking Infrared photos was to show the versatility of the film. It started with red trees, but led deeper into more complex stuff. Certainly it is much more than just red trees. In fact, the wonderful curve of the film can first really be realized when you start shooting without any green in the scene at all. This is where it really starts to get interesting.
It turns out that you can compose your color scheme for a given scene by your selection of materials. It is not so much the colors you select as it is the materials. I found that knowledge of textiles and materials helps you to paint a composition with relative accuracy. One example might be that black cotton will turn deep red in infrared, but black leather stays black. Fake hair changes color, but real hair does not. You can further experiment by using foliage to affect your scene. If your subject is wearing a red hat and standing under a tree, the hat may be rendered as orange. That same subject can be standing on a beach with no foliage and the hat may turn yellow. So there is great potential here. You can take a plant and put it near your subject and even if it is out of frame, it will influence the colors. Change the position of the plant and you change somewhat the color composition of your shot again.
If you are standing on green grass, under a green tree and surrounded by green bushes, you certainly will have an excess amount of IR bouncing around and your work will most likely come out monochrome and blown out. Remember that one goal should be to have as much color discrimination as possible and have several colors in the palette. That means asking yourself do the elements in the shot offer a variety of colors? .
From 2007 until the present, I have hand cut and rolled every 120 roll out there, adding up to about 100,000 rolls. There have also been 10,000's of 35mm and many, many 1000's of film sheets from 2x2 to 8x20. Then there was a crate of 16mm. The work has allowed me to reach just about every corner of the earth. I've been to some amazing places and met a lot of great people. After more than 12 years, the project is still gaining momentum.
One of the really great things about film is that if you get everything right, it's really unnecessary to do any post. It can all be done in the camera. The photos on this site are nearly 1:1 with the original slides. That is the fun and the wonder. Once you get a handle on it, it's like painting with materials and invisible light.
Dean Bennici 2019