A “Conspiracy of Cartographers” in color? Yes, please!


Some time back, Eric Swanger picked up a bulk roll of long expired Kodak Verichrome III. After trying, and failing, to produce results he liked in C-41 chemicals—he found it “blue, almost like a Tungsten balanced film”—he decided to mix his own ECN-2 chemicals.

Success! “The saturation, before smothered by the blue layer, was vivid. The reds, completely lost when developed in C-41, weren’t just present, but were its main feature.”

Sadly, he only had around 5 rolls of 135 and another 5 of 120. Images from those 10 rolls, all developed in his home-brewed ECN-2 chemicals, make up “Conspiracy of Cartographers, Issue 4: Verichrome,” and they mark a sort of return to the small- and ghost-towns of the first two “Conspiracy” zines, “Issue 1” and “Issue 2: East of Here” (in my collection, but apparently never reviewed).

“Verichrome” also returns to the small format, single image with text noting location, plus camera and film used, as found in the first one. To be honest, for these particular zines, I prefer this format to the more text-heavy ones, though as Swanger produces more and more zines, his use of text has gotten better and better.

The bulk of the photographs were made in Kansas, but if you pay some attention, the ordering describes a sort of loop from Swanger’s home state of WA, skipping ID entirely, with photographs in WY, KS, CO, UT, again skipping ID, and OR. I bet that was a nice trip!

I’m strongly sympathetic to the subjects and ways of framing: these are images I might have made; I’ve made similar images in some small TX towns. And so I have some appreciation for these scenes and the strange sort of nostalgia they invoke. After all, neither Swanger (I presume) nor I were alive when these towns were booming. Our parents were probably small children, if they were even around when these towns were fully populated and thriving.

The last page of the zine includes the ECN-2 recipe, mixing instructions, and development times… Should I reproduce those here? Hummm… on one hand, I do think you should go grab a copy of “Verichrome” for yourself, on the other hand, the recipe is probably available with some careful internet searching… Hummm. What the hey.

With apologies to Swanger:

ECN-2 Developer
1. Sodium Sulfite – 2g
2. Potasium Bromide – 1.4g
3. Sodium Carbonate – 25.6g
4. Sodium Bicarbonate – 2.8g
5. CD3 Color Developer – 4g

1. Potassium Ferricyanide – 40g
2. Potassium Bromide – 29g

Mix in any order
Developer: heat 800ml of distilled water to 110F; stir in developer chemicals and mix until thoroughly dissolved; add water to make 1L.
Bleach: same as above

Heat developer to 106F. Heat bleach and fixer to 100F.
1. Develop 3 min at 106F
2. Stop 30 seconds at 100F
3. Wash 30 seconds at 100F
4. Bleach 3 min at 100F
5. Wash 1 min at 100F
6. Fix 5 min at 100F
7. Wash/Rinse 2 min at 100F
Hang to dry

I may mix some of this up the next time I decide to shoot some movie film, as it’s all really ECN-2 process. Thanks, Eric!

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