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Thursday, 31 January 2013


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Mr. Smith's decision in his early days was "If it was good enough for Edward Weston, it's good enough for me". Uncompromising, indeed.
I admire his (their) simplicity and rigor, not to mention their bodies of work, but the need to crop and my preference for 4x5 in the field have kept me from following.

I thought that Edward Weston's fingers were stained by pyro, or pyrogallol, in his developer. Nasty stuff, too.

Thanks to Michael and Paula for keeping this traditional fine art photography alive. As I said in my recent blog post...."some film cameras are not easy to use, neither is playing a violin" the full blog piece can be seen here:http://garynylander.blogspot.ca/2013/01/my-thoughts-on-why-i-shoot-film.html

There is also Fomalux contact paper. While I'll be the first to admit that Lodima is probably much better, I can order a 100 5x7 sheets from Freestyle for 1/3 of the cost of the same amount of Lodima. For someone like me who is learning the process, that is no small thing.

How does contact printing on chloride paper relate to Printing-Out-Paper, also used for contact printing but it seems with even longer exposures and needed for very long scale early dry plates. Lee Friedlanders' EJ Belloq portraits were all achieved this way. Is this the same or an even more extreme form of print emulsion?

It may be trivial, but it warms the cockles of my heart that you (and presumably thus also Smith and Chamlee) spell "Jökulsárlón" correctly with all the acute accents and umlaut.

I've never worked with anything larger than 4x5, so the technique for doing 8x20 is a fascinating mystery. What film does he use? Does the very high cost of film (I'd guess for a 160 sq.in. sheet, at least $10per sheet- and likely higher) does this affect how he works? Or does he simply ignore cost and experiment? Where does he get that unusual size film? How does he process the film? ETC. ETC. Could you please provide 'part two' with his front end process??

The 8x20 negative Michael is holding appears to have staining from development in pyro. Is that correct?

The vacuum contact print frame is intriguing because those careful details help to manifest the awesome sharpness from those large negatives.

Just to be technically correct, there is another silver chloride paper currently available - Fomalux created by Foma (see B&H). I've used Lodima and Fomalux and appreciate them both (never too many traditional papers).

Reading about developing by inspection sure was interesting... but it made me glad that I've never shot film. Ugh.

Not to be picky, but Foma also make an AZO type FB contact printing paper called Fomalux(III)SP, which in Australia we get from Blanco Negro in Sydney.
All the best, Mark

My first and foremost question has been answered by this post: What kind of camera takes in film that makes 8 x 20 contact prints?

I'm afraid I have more really naïve questions that are begging to be asked after reading this post:

Does Michael carry his gear all by himself?

How does ultra- or large format photographers "chimp" (with a Polaroid? digital)? Or don't they? What about metering?

Is available light quality (good weather; the season) a major consideration for U-/LF landscape shooters?

I'll spare y'all my developing/printing questions. :)

I can see now why, in the case of large format art photographs, it's a seller's market, esp. for renowned photographers like Michael and Paula.

Great read Mike, thanks for the story.

Here's a interesting article on how you can produce your own LF digital negatives.


Came across this as I was trying to find some information on large format negative printers. There use to be, may still be, not sure some $100,000.00+ machines that were used to produce copies of LF negatives. I saw a couple quite a few years ago that had been purchased by a life long Chicago photographer that had one of the biggest collections of 4 by 5 and larger glass plates and up negatives probably in the US. He was looking to sell the collection for about 3 million if I remember correctly. 15-20 books of never seen before images could have been easily produced from this massive archive purchased from many different photographers over the years. The image he seemed to be most proud of was a massive panoramic of Chicago a few days after the big fire. It was a massive image about 8 feet tall and maybe 80 feet long. It was produced from a series of 8 by 10 images.


Not exactly the pic you reference, but this one with Charis shows a black thumbnail. Only his left hand nails were amidol stained, as I think his right hand was saved for the hypo.

The end results can perhaps be replicated with 4x5, with a medium-format digital camera and possibly even with a high-quality 35mm DSLR. The process is likely not essential to how the pictures come out.

But I bet the process is absolutely essential to what pictures are taken in the first place. A good craftsman may be able to use any tool, but tools shape our thoughts and direct us just as much as we direct them. Smith or Chamlee with a Canon in hand would likely choose very different images as subjects than Smith or Chamlee shouldering an 8x10.

This as well as the linked article about developing negative by inspection were really awesome! Thank you very much, both of you!

@scott kirkpatrick:

I haven't done it myself, but my understanding is that printing-out-paper is somewhat similar to these chloride papers chemically (it also uses chloride) but the process is different. The key difference is that printing-out actually produces a visible image without needing a separate development step; you can see the image as you print. That makes the image self-masking. IOW, the partially printed image blocks some of the light from going deeper into the paper, so longer and longer exposures have less and less effect on the darkest parts of the print. Self-masking makes it possible to print the full range from negatives with very wide density ranges while maintaining detail.

[POP was also intended for temporary viewing. Since exposure to light causes the paper to darken without development, continued exposure to light will ruin the image. The image can be "arrested" at the desired state of density by gold-toning. The images typically have a strong drab reddish cast.

The paper is extremely slow, much slower than developing-out contact printing paper, and requires a number of minutes of exposure to sunlight or strong UV.

The only photographer I know of who used gold-toned POP for finished work was Linda Connor of the San Francisco Art Institute. When I heard her speak in the '80s she was already concerned about the imminent disappearance of printing-out papers, which I assume are long gone (but I don't know that for a fact). However, I believe it's possible for photographers to coat their own, which may be what Linda does now. --Mike

ADDENDUM: I see Arne Croelle has addressed the question in more detail, with better information--see his comment below. --M.]

'How do ultra- or large format photographers "chimp"? '

The cool thing about film is that you have a lot of flexibility in development so you just make two identical exposures , develop one of them , and then if you can adjust the development of the other.

I never had to develop the second sheet for exposure in B&W but I occasionally had an attack of air bells. In E6 on the other hand it seemed like there was always a 1/2 or 1/4 stop pull on the second sheet.

"Is available light quality (good weather; the season) a major consideration for U-/LF landscape shooters?"
Sunny days suck. Windy days blow.

Azo is nice but I'd love to get my hands on some Kodak Studio Proof.

"How does contact printing on chloride paper relate to Printing-Out-Paper, also used for contact printing but it seems with even longer exposures and needed for very long scale early dry plates. Lee Friedlanders' EJ Belloq portraits were all achieved this way. Is this the same or an even more extreme form of print emulsion? "
Contact printing paper like Azo is developed and fixed like other b/w papers. Printing-out-Paper (POP) is also exposed by contact but is not developed, the silver forming the image is just produced by the action of (UV-) light. Typical exposure times are 10-20 minutes in full midday sun to hours in artificial light, and the progress of the image formation is visually checked from time to time by opening one half of the hinged back of a contact printing frame. The paper contains excess silver nitrate to achieve its particular properties. The resulting image is a dark maroon red, since it is made up of colloidal silver, consisting of much smaller particles than developed silver. The image tone gets much lighter and changes to a rather ugly pinkish-brown during fixing (regular fixing bath, not a rapid fix). To get a permanent image, it needs to be gold-toned (Pt-toning is also an option, but rare) after fixing, which radically changes tone and color again. The color depends on the toner composition, concentration, temperature, and time, but the usual desired color is a deep chocolate brown with some purple undertones. You can see an example here: http://www.arnecroell.com/p495465282/h18c12019#h18c12019. Btw, it is a very different aesthetic than Michael's and Paula's prints (of which I own a few). The technical difficulty is in judging the exposure taking into account all the changes in tonal values and color during the subsequent processing. The advantage is that the paper is "self-masking", i.e. the silver that is first formed in the shadow areas reduces the effect of the subsequent exposure, acting as a mask to reduce contrast. POP therefore needs long scale negatives with much higher contrast than negatives for regular contact printing or enlarging,similar to platinum printing. Kodak made one POP until the mid-1980's called "Solio". The last POP available was the "Centennial" paper sold by Chicago Albumen Works (it was a gelatin-based paper though, not Albumen), made by Kentmere before Kentmere was bought by Ilford.

How does ultra- or large format photographers "chimp" (with a Polaroid? digital)? Or don't they? What about metering?

They don't 'chimp' as they know what to expect when they use a light meter.

When all you have to do is point it at a subject, focus it and set the exposure, you can put in whatever effort is required to do those few things very well with a high confidence of what you will record on the film.

The feel good factor provided by a Polaroid or a preview screen is not required.

T. Thorne Baker wrote an excellent article in 1943 about silver chloride papers and the difference between developing-out papers (like Azo and Lodima) and P.O.P. (printing-out papers). I have the article on my website: http://thelightfarm.com/cgi-bin/htmltutgen.py?content=24Jan2013

BTW: Lodima is an extraordinarily lovely paper.


How does ultra- or large format photographers "chimp"?

They don't. That is the beauty of shooting with a large-format camera on a tripod, where you can make exactly the picture you see on the ground glass, before clicking the shutter.

In my personal work, I know I have a much closer relationship to the pictures I make that way as opposed to those where I blast away with a digital camera and edit down the results afterward. In the end, the viewer might not know or care but that emotional connection the artist has to the picture is almost universally felt.

HI Mike,

I'm going to reiterate that it this this kind of post that you should do well before the print offer starts. For me - when it comes to craft - I like to know the craftsman.

This writeup, especially the loving discussion of chloride papers and your inclusion the phrase ‘develop their negatives by inspection’, just cost me $385.

Back in the 1970's I worked at the Milwuakee Public Museum and we had a pretty good sized collection of 8x10 glass plates. We would make very large prints for exhibits but these would never reveal any detail in the sky. But is we used POP to make an 8x10 we would get the most amazing range of tones in the prints. As I remeber we woudl fix and tone these to add to the files. We did not do many that way as it was far to slow a process but quite fun.

Lovely prints on offer

I would never advocate buying decorative or art works that you do not like, regardless of who produced it or how much trouble it was to produce. The most fundamental requirement of any such non-essential stuff is that it brings pleasure to its owner. Period.

In the offer thread, however, a fellow remarked that these prints punched all of his (go?) buttons but he still wasn't buying any because they just did not appeal to him. Fair enough. My first paragraph's rule still applies.

But to this reader, and other who might be straddling a similar dilemma, I offer two thoughts. First, the window for purchasing such work directly from people who have mastered this unique production method is rapidly closing. Despite the wishes and hand-wringing of devotees, the film medium, in general, is quickly evaporating. The prospective opportunities for a young person to devote decades towards mastering large-format contact printing are exactly zero. So here you have work done by living master craftspeople at the end of their careers, offered at 1-time only art.com-like prices. No?

Second thought. You're judging this work from crummy jpegs. OK, that's all you can do. It's the bad news part of the proposition. Again I say don't buy what you don't like. But the corollary to that rule is to be confident of your judgement. This is exactly the kind of work that can really seep into your psyche over time. An acquaintance loaned a Baltz print to the AIC for an exhibition a few years ago. At the opening I spotted him looking rather sadly at it as it hung on the gallery wall flanked by its long-lost cousins. When asked why his face was a bit long he admitted that he had not really liked "the damn thing" much when he bought it (years ago). But having been displayed in his home for many years it had become "part of the family", a part that he found himself unexpectedly missing deeply in its temporary absence.

Michael and Paula's work have the potential to become part of a family, too. Don't underestimate how momentarily immersing and escapist an image such as "Rio Nell'Elba, Isola d'Elba, Tuscany" can really be over the years. After a bad day at work you collapse into a chair, put your head back and momentarily let your imagination drive you up that road right into that town. Beats a stiff drink for me.

So, once again, don't buy the stuff if you really don't like (or really cannot afford). But don't be a dope, either. For less than the price of a mediocre lens you can have... until the end of the day today.

Ken writes: "So here you have work done by living master craftspeople at the end of their careers, offered at 1-time only art.com-like prices."

I have vivid memories of Michael and Paula as a freshly minted young couple traveling through Maine in an antique firetruck (I think that's what it was) that Michael had skillfully crafted into a "portable" darkroom, complete with crammed-in sleeping facilities!

Now they're "at the end of their careers"? Say it ain't so, Ken...

— Jim Hughes

On chimping . . . LF photographer pre-chimp every image on a big piece of ground glass directly behind the lens. There are no surprises, especially in big cameras where it's like watching a TV. Yes, you have to get your exposure reasonably close to correct, but as long as you err on the side of overexposure there's a process that will print your B&W negative.

As far as Ken's comment goes: yes, there will likely be no LF photographers contact printing on contact paper in thirty years. But much as I like Michael and Paula, and appreciate their project, their prints have a particular look that may not appeal to some. Other contact printers seek different looks, and you might prefer higher contrast or different print tone than Michael and Paula. That's OK.

I wasn't going to purchase any prints this time around, as last year I blew my tax return on buying prints in the Peter Turnley offering. They proved to be just gorgeous though, and I'm so happy I decided to buy them, never having bought a photographic piece of art before.

Last night, I took the plunge again and bought a print, "Jökulsárlón, Iceland". The more I looked at the jpeg, the more I had to have one. To me there is such mystery in that photograph.

Then, thanks to the above post by Kenneth, I just decided to purchase another print that has been gnawing at me, "Rio Nell'Elba, Isola d'Elba, Tuscany" as I can just see myself, after a bad day, relaxing in front of such a beautiful print, but with a glass of red wine as well.

Dear Folks,

Can you really call it "chimping???"

Maybe "King-Konging."


pax / Ctein

"Despite the wishes and hand-wringing of devotees, the film medium, in general, is quickly evaporating."

I don't accept that conclusion as inevitable, but am not Polyannaish about it. Just in case, there are 6,000 sheets of 8x10 Azo in my closet, most of it purchased from Michael and Paula, and 2,000 sheets of 5x7 TRI-X in the freezer. However, given my age and genetic heritage, it's unlikely I'll ever need to use much of either.

The reason I won't is Ilford's real commitment to ongoing manufacture of traditional black and white materials and its financial success doing so. Almost any film desired, even 8x20 sheet film for Michael's camera, can be purchased from Ilford during its annual special sizes ordering period, with no minimum quantities imposed. I currently mostly shoot Delta 100 sheets in several sizes, including 5x7 and 6-1/2 x 8-1/2, then contact print those negatives on Ilfobrom Galerie. I actually like the results better than Azo.

Unless self-fulfilling myths like "the film medium is evaporating" discourage those who would pursue it, I believe a young person who wishes to devote decades towards mastering large-format contact printing will find substantial opportunities. Especially since they would stand out so clearly from the mass of "chimpers." ;-)

Just the thought of working with a large format camera on a cliff gives me vertigo.

According to many articles I read over the years, large-format studio photographers used Polaroid backs extensively. They (and they were among the top-paid people in the field) thought they needed that level of checking. In fact, I remember an article saying they started the day with Polaroid tests, and when those seemed perfect, they shot chromes and sent them to the 1-hour lab, got them back the same day, made any final adjustments, and THEN shot the final sheets for the client.

So, yeah, you can chimp in large format, and some of the best shooters thought it was vital. It's just expensive and slow compared to what we have access to today.

[What large format studio shooters were checking was the lighting--Polaroid allowed them to see the effect of their multi-source studio flash setups and light-shaping devices. They were just as dependent on Polaroid in medium format--and even small format, once 35mm started to be viable for studio photography and after Marty Forscher came along. Otherwise they were just guessing as to what the camera would see. A "field" or outdoor photographer would not need Polaroid, except if that was the final medium, as it might be in the case of Positive/Negative film, used extensively by photographers such as Mark Klett.

I never heard of studio photographers proofing with actual film, although it must have happened. More common was that they'd just wait to strike the set until they got the film back, so if something happened in processing they wouldn't have to start all over again. --Mike]

Using the kinds of tools these two photographers do requires dedication, and a good sales pitch when it comes time to sell a print.

I owned a 12x20inch Folmer and Schwing with a brace of optics (Artar, Dagor, G-Claron). It's a heavy system of camera, tripod, holders, lenses, film, and dark cloth. The wet process means you need lots of space and very large trays.

It's how I learned it takes more than equipment and process to make a fine image.

I came up with a way to eliminate (or greatly minimize) the staining of amidol when used as a paper developer. Do I release the secret, or do I take it to my grave (about 22 years from now according to the life expectancy tables)

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