The Wonders of Phenols: An Interview with Artist and Alchemist Dagie Brundert


For all experimental photographers who like to try and venture into the realms of alternative developing solutions, the harsh reality is that finding the right balance with your mixtures is not alway easy. That's why the work of other photographers, such as Dagie Brundert, who have cracked the secrets of organic developing solutions, is so important, and even more is their generosity in sharing their knowledge with us.

We discovered Dagie Brundert while researching for an alternative recipe and we were stunned by the incredible amount of solutions she had on her blog. Dagie is a filmmaker and artist based in Berlin. We want to highlight her work and thank her for sharing her passion with our community. We hope you enjoy this interview with her, and make sure to stop by her blog which is an incredible resource of fascinating natural developing solutions.

Photo courtesy of © Dagie Brundert

Hello Dagie, and welcome to Lomography Magazine. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your experience with film photography and analogue movies?

Hello! I started super 8 filmmaking over 30 years ago when I was studying at HdK (art school) in Berlin, it somehow happened by coincidence … my professor came one day and had a small super 8 camera with him, telling us students to check it out if we wanted, and so I grabbed it and played with it. Those days there were labs in all countries that would develop your film so you didn’t have to care about that.

I immediately fell in love with super 8! Easy to handle, cameras and projectors available (flea markets), lots of different film stock for not much money. It was ideal to play around and explore. That’s what I did. I started making animation films, short films, setting up small worlds on the table, animating plastic figures and simple drawings. Pure fun!

Some years later the labs gave up one by one, video took over. I didn’t worry, I began to develop the films myself which was ok because I loved darkroom work! I had some experience with photography and it was quite easy to set up a darkroom, also I love to work on my own in my little bubble with my little ideas and do everything myself.

Photo courtesy of © Dagie Brundert

Why do you choose to use alternative techniques?

After several years of darkroom work with “regular” developers I was asking myself: isn’t there a way to avoid all this toxic stuff? I mean it’s not super-toxic but you can’t flush it down the toilet, you have to collect it and make sure it gets recycled somewhere. So I researched and found, tadaaaa, caffenol! The coffee based black & white developer! It was like a little revolution for me and soon I continued the path and wanted to find out: if coffee works, perhaps tea and wine and whatever fancy juice does the same?

When did you start experimenting with alternative developing solutions?

I tried to understand what was happening, why can coffee develop films and photos? What is the power in coffee and why washing soda? I learned a lot! I already knew how emulsions are made, I understood how silver salts react when light falls on them and what you need to transform them into metallic silver – the basic of black & white photography, but then I didn’t know that caffeic acid and other acids are capable to do it. A big new non-toxic universe opened its doors for me! I was totally fascinated and I still am.

Photo courtesy of © Dagie Brundert

What is your working process like? How do you find your recipe?

After testing liters and liters of different juices and soups I feel it in my fingers somehow now. I learned that the most powerful parts in a plant contain the most vigorous developer ingredient! It’s all about the phenols.

Dark, bright colored blossoms, sweet smelling blossoms, yummy sour fruit, red blue black aromatic berries, they all attract insects! They need bees to have sex, to multiply, to continue their life stream, so I find it totally logical that they will make a satisfying developer!

Also I am very fascinated when I learned that it’s the phenols in the tree bark that give strength to the tree to stand upright. I take a tiny little portion from the tree and receive a strong juice to give contrast and saturated blacks to my film!

Kompostol-juice and Kompostol_Pinhole Photo courtesy of © Dagie Brundert

Do you have any favorite recipe?

Definitely! Kompostol and Tuttifruttol! Both are reliable and give wonderful results, good contrasts, soft grey tones! I am very fascinated and satisfied that you can transform the food remains of one day and one person into one liter of developer which is enough for one super 8 film (or about eight photos!) Food remains like: apple, potato, banana, orange and lemon, carrot, kiwi peels, the inside of a pumpkin, broccoli stem.

Which film stock is your favorite to work with?

I love them all! I wish that the old black & white Plus-X film was still available but it is not. There is only one left: Tri-X, a high sensitive, wonderful film, quite grainy, but not too grainy when you're developing temperature is below 30°. The higher the more!

Color, I love these Kodak Vision color negative films, but I don’t develop them with eco soup, that doesn’t work. But the old miraculous Kodachrome K40 loves Caffenol and other juices! You can develop it black & white negative and will mostly receive a yellowish or orangish tone, depending on the Kodachrome’s age. Once it turned out bright red, don’t ask me why. Kodachrome loves eco soups!

Photo courtesy of © Dagie Brundert

What does pinhole photography mean to you?

My cameras are all self made round cans (cookie, coffee, tea cans) – so the paper or the film lies concave in the camera and pictures the landscape pretty wide-angled! I am fascinated capturing a little more than just an image, I also capture time!

The exposure time depends on the sun intensity and of course on the size of the can and the hole. If it is super sunny it can be like only one or a few seconds, if it’s only a bit less sunny it can go up to several minutes. It's always a surprise! Don’t expect that each shot is a hit!

There is so much coincidence in the process. You don’t really see what you take, it’s a bit about guessing the image, but with this uncertainty you are sometimes rewarded with pure unique beauty that only happens when it’s not 100% planned. There is no plan, there is only intuition and feeling.

To learn more about Dagie's film soup projects, you can read her blog and follow her work.

written by eparrino on 2022-12-24 #culture #tutorials #black-and-white #berlin #super-8 #filmmaking #alternative-development-techniques #organic-developing-solution


  1. agrimony
    agrimony ·

    thanks for sharing - i love her photos and her intense exploration of different photographic techniques! very inspiring!

  2. papa-attila
    papa-attila ·


  3. eparrino
    eparrino ·

    @agrimony 😄

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