Cut-out composites – composite photographs – Cover Story
Gary J. Fields
If you are like most photographers, you have boxes of slides that didn’t quite make the grade. You keep thinking that there should be a use for them and you just can’t bring yourself to throw them out. With a keen eye, imagination and a few simple tools, you can combine two less-than-perfect slides into a cut-out composite with high-impact value that sparks viewer interest.
A series of slides taken of an old wagon wheel hub gave me my first idea for a cut-out composite. After using the hub in a test of macro equipment capabilities, I had a good number of relatively uninteesting slides.
To give your reject slides new life you will need a few simple tools, a steady hand and about 25 minutes. To make cut-out composites, you carefully cut out an area from one slide, the “frame slide,” and cement a slightly larger piece from a second slide, the “subject slide,” over the cut-out opening. the first step in making cut-out composites is to get together a few simple inexpensive materials. A small disposable utility knife or a hobby knife, a magnifying lens or headband magnifier, a pair of tweezers, liquid super glue, a pencil, a straight pin and a simple, glass-covered light table will get you started.
Second, you must choose the slides to combine. When selecting two slides to make a cut-out composite, make sure there is a noticeable difference in contrasts between the frame slide and the subject slide. The finished combination will have more impact if the contrast of the combination is strongly evident. Try to choose a slightly underexposed or low key frame slide and a high key or brightly lit subject as the glue-in chip. Slides that have spaces surrounded by natural borders seem to make the best frame slides. The darker the border, the better the finished combination will be. Pictures with doors or windows make good frame slides, but don’t let rectangles and squares limit your creativity.
The third step is cutting the slides. A magnifying lens positioned over the working area, or a headband binocular magnifier, aids greatly in making clean and accurate cuts and helps in aligning the subject slide chip for gluing. Hama makes a very good magnifying lens that has a four-inch lens fitted into a freestanding, folding support frame. A good binocular magnifier is made by OptiVISOR (model DA-5). Fix the lens in place or use the visor so that both hands will be free to handle the knife and slides. Unmount and tape the slide to the glass surface of your light table. Make the first cut with a light stroke, scoring the slide the length of one side or portion of the “window.” Do not try to cut all the way through the slide with the first draw of the blade. Repeated light strokes allow for adjustment and better control of the cut. Use a second or third stroke of the blade to complete the cut. Finish one side of the cut before starting another. Rotate the slide or table 90 degrees and make the second cut.
Repeat these steps until you complete the hole in the frame slide. If your opening is round, hole punches, cork boring tools and automotive gasket punches make cutting round holes and the pieces to cover them a simple task. Remove the frame slide with its hole from the light table and hold it over each of several slides you have chosen for a subject.
Previewing the combination will determine if the subject will fit the opening and indicate if you have the desired effect. Re-tape the frame slide to the light table. Unmount and lay the chosen subject slide on top of the frame slide and tape it in place so it will not move around. Remember, the subject chip must be slightly larger than the opening in the frame to provide a gluing surface on all sides. This will ensure that no white light leaks through during projection.
Carefully scribe all boundaries of the subject slide with the knife. Remove both slides and tape the subject slide in place for the finishing cuts. Repeat the steps of cutting as you did for the frame slide.
When all cutting is complete, the frame slide, with its hole and the small subject chip will be ready to cement together. Handle the subject chip with ordinary tweezers, but do so gently to avoid scratching the film emulsion.
The next step is gluing the subject chip into the frame slide. The key to successful cementing is to use the least amount of glue as possible to firmly attach the two pieces of film together. I have tried many solvents and glues and the liquid super glues are the best and safest to use. Do not try to apply the glue directly from the tube, you will invariably flood the surface of the window slide and the excess glue will show during projection.
The simplest tool for gluing is a straight pin stuck into a pencil eraser. Cut off the head of the pin and file the pin flat with sandpaper or an emery board. You now have a fine-point gluing tool that is easy to handle.
Place and tape the frame slide on a lighted working surface and carefully position the subject chip over the hole. Align the chip precisely where you want it. Using the tip of the gluing tool pin, take a small drop of super glue from its tube. Transfer the drop to the edge of the subject chip where it lies against the frame slide. The glue will run along the edge of the chip and coat the two surfaces of the films. You will have a moment for final adjustment before the glue sets.
It does not matter if the frame and subject chip are emulsion-to-emulsion or emulsion-to-film base. If there is. much curl to the subject chip, you may have to gently press the chip flat with the eraser of a pencil until the glue sets. When the first glue is dry, cement the opposite side of the subject chip in the same manner. It is not necessary to glue all edges of the chip.
The final step is to protect the composite by placing it in a glass mount. One of the easiest mounts to use is the Gepe double-glass slide binder, 24 x 26 mm size. It is available at most well-stocked camera supply stores. The Gepe mounts are ultra thin and have an inner metal frame to hold the film. The finished mounted slide is thin enough to work well in any slide tray.
Now you can make cut-out composites out of those less-than-perfect slides you have been reluctant to throw away. Combining slides using this technique can be very rewarding and your imagination is your only limit. Once you make a few successful cut-out composites, you may find yourself deliberately taking photographs guided by a preconceived idea for a combination.
COPYRIGHT 1996 Photographic Society of America, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale Group