A Poem in the Shadow of the Grand Mosque

By Omar Ozenir

Having found refuge from the searing heat in the small tea garden beneath the wall of the Grand Mosque in Adana, we got into conversation with the neighbouring table. Once he felt comfortable of his new found company he opened up and told us about his difficult past. He talked, we listened.

I started photographing when he recited a poem he had written for a woman a long time ago. As he remembered - who knows, maybe the life that had slipped past him - tears welled up in his eyes...

Back at home in the darkroom, I decided to print the frame where he had looked away for a moment and his eyes had caught the light.

The picture was taken with a Bronica RF645 rangefinder camera and a 65mm lens. I developed the film, llford HP5+, in ID-11 diluted 1+1.

The main difficulty with this photo is that the background is rather messy (as can be seen in the neg or the top left frame in the contact print). In spontaneous situations like this, we can't always move people around to a more pleasing setting, so we've just got to live with what we have and try to make the most of it.

In the darkroom I worked towards calming down the background as much as I could, which also helped focus attention on the man. Lowering the filtration to grade 1 after the main exposure, I gradually burned in the background, first using my hands, then moving around a piece of cardboard with a large hole in it, slowly building up density in the highlights.

This is the wet selenium toned print on fibre based Ilford MG IV:

In the print there was a greyness in the whites of the eyes, which I removed with a few touches of bleach (PotFerri) on a cotton swab. I very much like how Nathalie Loparelli uses local bleaching towards the end of this video, which I’m sure many of you have already seen. She makes it look too easy! She also seems to be using local bleaching as a matter of course; quite the contrary to my way of printing, where I rarely feel that a print would benefit from it. But that could well be due to my own poor judgement!


  1. Very interesting to see how much she uses bleach (in the linked video). In my limited experience with bleach, I had trouble with the area being lightened would turn warmtone while rest of print would be cooltone, for example. Following Barry Thornton's suggestion in one of his books, I switched to dilute iodine tincture.

  2. Hi Omar - they do say a picture is worthy a thousand words - well, you've definitely caught them! Well done yet again.

    As for selective bleaching - it is definitely something worth doing, and with portraits, my lecturer Joe McKenzie would often subtley use it just to emphasise the catch-lights. I use it quite frequently (as you know) and find it to definitely be a useful technique . . read your copy of Darkroom 1 again - Eugene goes into it.

    Take care

  3. Lovely photo and back story, Omar; thank you.

    I have seen the video before but had lost the link to it, so thank you again for providing it.

    Phil, I had a copy of Darkroom for so many years it was beginning to fall apart. After years of using Kodachrome I decided that I would never need it again and I threw it away. I've missed it ever since. I wish Ralph Gibson would reprint it.