Mount Royd, Bradford: Disembodied Heads

Discussion in 'Notes & Queries' started by Krepostnoi, Jul 22, 2018.

  1. Krepostnoi

    Krepostnoi Bug Bunny

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    Does anyone happen to have a copy they could scan and upload of a photograph which purportedly shows two disembodied heads? It was taken on a street called Mount Royd, in Bradford, I guess in the late 1990s. The newspaper article probably originally had the photograph, but if so it's been lost in a site upgrade, and the wayback machine doesn't obviously have it.

    EDIT: Apparently the pic is in FT123.

     
    Last edited: Jul 22, 2018
  2. hunck

    hunck Justified & Ancient

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    I've got a copy of FT 123. I can tell you you'll be disappointed - the photo is blurred/grainy, black & white, & small. Taken at night, showing some light blobs. It looks as though it could be quite evocative if it were larger, but you can forget about detail. It's probably a copy of a copy & by the time it's scanned it's going to be even grainier.

    I won't be anywhere near a scanner for a couple of weeks but will scan & upload if you're still looking by then.
     
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  3. Krepostnoi

    Krepostnoi Bug Bunny

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    Sorry to be so slow to respond. I take your caveats, but I'd still be keen to see the photo - my explorations have so far proved fruitless.
     
  4. hunck

    hunck Justified & Ancient

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    Here's the photo - I said you'd be disappointed. The photo as printed in the mag was about 7 x 6 cm.

    upload_2018-8-8_15-27-42.png
     
  5. Tribble

    Tribble Furry Idiot

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    Enhance! Enhance!

    ♫ Then I saw two heads, now I'm a believer ♪

    Looks to me like the "head" on the left is a very blurred/noisy version of the right-hand one. Not an expert, but I'd say there's some kind of internal reflection in the lens going on. Can only guess the cause (streetlight? Car headlight reflected off something?). Wonder if the negative still exists somewhere? (got a possible email addy that might or might not be the same person if anyone wants to ask)

    [​IMG]
     
  6. EnolaGaia

    EnolaGaia I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ... Staff Member

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    Thanks, Tribble - your experimentation and illustration confirm the similarity between the two 'heads' images that was bugging me.

    I'm not sure how faithful the published photo is with respect to the scene that night.

    Ms. Crowther always admitted 'burning' the image in the darkroom to make the 'heads' come into clearer view. Burning means intervening between the lamp and the print so as to allow additional exposure to the print's targeted area.

    The sort of nimbus or aura surrounding the fuzzy upper 'face' may simply be an artifact of her darkroom manipulations. This essentially prevents me from pursuing my initial impression that the 'faces' may be reflections / refractions on or through what appears to be a mist or fog. The haze I thought I saw was amplified, if not wholly added, in the darkroom.
     
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  7. Krepostnoi

    Krepostnoi Bug Bunny

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    @hunck huge thanks for going to the trouble of posting that. I'm not nearly as disappointed as you seemed to worry I was going to be - Messrs Tribble and EnolaGaia have managed to make interesting observations, and the photo itself is quite evocative.
     
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  8. Swifty

    Swifty Generation Y

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    I studied photography at college, another use of the term 'burning' is used during the development process of the print; when the print is in the developing fluid and you're sloshing it about in the tray, rubbing your thumb over the area you want brightened so it develops more quickly than the rest of the print.
     
  9. catseye

    catseye Generally strange

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    I'm more interested in why she would do that? What was it about that picture that made the person developing it actually want to focus on that bright light - there seem to be many other light sources in the picture and, like others, I'd just assume that these two bright lights came from some 'on the ground' source. So why concentrate on them when developing the picture?

    Looks like a bit of wishful thinking to me. But then, I can never see those magic eye pictures either...
     
  10. EnolaGaia

    EnolaGaia I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ... Staff Member

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    According to the accounts I read, Ms. Crowther simply wanted to bring one portion of the original photo into higher visibility (hence the burning manipulation in the darkroom). There's nothing wrong with doing that with a test print in the darkroom - it's just a way of producing a variant that one may prefer as a final product. Maybe she wanted to bring that particular area into higher relief to see what it was. Maybe she was trying to balance the brightness of the various lights(?) in the scene for aesthetic effect.

    Or maybe this happened to be the photo she was using in performing a class exercise. She was, after all, studying photography at the time.

    The odd bit here is that the admittedly-manipulated print was widely disseminated as the 'baseline' version of the photo. I can't immediately think of any other highly-publicized anomaly photo that was admittedly manipulated with regard to scene content like this and distributed as the baseline evidence.

    IMHO there are two important sources of clues missing - a sample of the original (un-manipulated) photo and a daytime shot of the same scene.
     
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  11. EnolaGaia

    EnolaGaia I knew the job was dangerous when I took it ... Staff Member

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    Because burning can increase contrast in the area burned, it can result in producing high contrast sub-areas that insinuate discrete objects or forms (i.e., simulacra). As a result, the purported presence of any discrete object is called into question within a burned area.

    As Tribble's brilliant ( :clap: ) image illustrates, the so-called 'faces' seem to be identical simulacra.

    This makes matters worse, in that it calls the number of such purported objects into question. This duplication could just as reasonably be an artifact arising via the darkroom manipulation as an artifact induced by the camera, the act of taking the photo, or something in the actual scene.

    We can't tell what the scene is like, what she saw in that scene that night, or what her camera captured. All we've seen is what she made of it via admitted manipulation.

    IMHO this is one of those cases whose most striking element is the fact anyone takes it seriously as evidence.
     
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  12. catseye

    catseye Generally strange

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    Thanks for the explanation, Enola. I'd been beginning to wonder if it was the photographic equivalent of those 'funny' videos you see on TV, where someone has inexplicably and pointlessly been filming a stretch of road and - Lo! A car comes driving down and crashes in an amusing way.

    But I can understand that it might have been a photography exercise,
     
  13. PeteS

    PeteS Ephemeral Spectre

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    Mount Royd is a small private road off Manningham Lane in Bradford with a wooded area around it. It's a bit of an oasis actually with about 8 or so very substantial semis on it, dating from the time when Bradford was a very wealthy city. I remember visiting the place decades ago when I worked there. I found it quite a weird place , possibly because it was so unlike the surrounding streets. I can well imagine that the photographer might have been looking for something out of the ordinary in the piccies she took. Nothing really extraordinary in the scene but interesting nonetheless.
     

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