Saturday, April 30, 2016

Using Kodak HC-110 for that grand gesture

Higgins, Ilfosol study #1, 2013

Matt Higgins' new book-length exposition on chemigrams - their history, their workings, and perhaps where they're heading in a not so distant future - is finished at last, although as yet unpublished.  You'll remember that we teased you with it back in 2013 as a glimpse of things to come, when we had no idea it would be this good.  It's called Chemical Potential: A World Upside Down and delivers on the promise of its title, leaving little that hasn't been tried in the chemigram-friendly darkroom.

Higgins, Ilfosol study #2, 2013

I've been browsing it lately and thought we might want to take a few pages from it for further discussion, so today, to pick a topic, we'll try to figure out what it is he's doing with Kodak HC-110, or Ilfosol-3, the more-or-less Ilford equivalent - we'll get to the differences in a moment - and show you some examples and some how-to.  For Higgins fans, a cautionary note: this matter is not major stuff for him, and he treats it almost in passing.  So while on the evidence he has had great fun exploring it, it would not be warranted to grant it much of a central role in his work to date.  Once you learn from him how to handle it however, and can pirouette boldly down the paper with it, it may easily seduce you and find a home in your own darkroom work.

HC-110 and Ilfosol-3 are both advertised as film developers, which doesn't mean you can't use them for paper as well - you can.  They have a surprisingly long history: their patents, in both America and the UK, go back to the 1960s and HC-110 was brought onto the market in 1962.  They are concentrated developers, designed to be used in dilutions which can be extensive if not homeopathic, 1:32, 1:63, even 1:100, which is a boon for the budget-minded photographer.  In appearance HC-110 is straw-colored, very viscous and syrupy, Ifosol-3 clear and somewhat less viscous.  Their applications in film development will not concern us here, but let us just say, in the shorter dilutions or even undiluted, as we would most often use them, their developing action is vigorous, not to say precipitous.

Chemically they are not particularly unusual products; it is the physical character that is exceptional.  Both are hydroquinone-phenidone based developers, with common accelerators, restrainers and the rest.  What distinguishes them is a heavy debt to glycols at the expense of water as the functional solvent, especially, in the case of HC-110, to diethylene glycol (DEG).  DEG is a large molecule and is perhaps most responsible for the high viscosity, the wonderful thickness of the product, and the reason we're even here talking about it. 

So let's start.  For equipment you'll need lots of paper.  Higgins says RC paper is best, and I would bet on expired paper as a check on the development speed of modern papers.  A syringe, plunger, or squeeze bottle is practically an essential applicator tool.  Also, bring to the task the quick reflexes and persistence you honed in your dip-and-dunk chemigram phase. Alright, here we go.  In daylight you wet the paper and you drip or squeeze a blob of HC-110 onto it.  Quickly the blob shifts into development mode, changes shape, possibly colors, oozes here or there, slides around - and turns everything black.  You blew it, be faster next time, start over.  You have to learn to squelch what you set in motion - not easy. 

Higgins, Ilfosol study #4, 2014
If you're successful and move quickly you'll get one like study #4, where Ilfosol was dripped, this time, from an extended arm position, allowing the droplets to shudder back and forth on impact to create a winsome effect.  In general, the basic setup for Higgins is a tray with just a few millimeters of water in it and the paper lying just below the surface, at which point you hit it with your chemistry.  If you increase water depth you obtain different effects, as the developer diffuses on its way down, which of course may be a short way down.

Higgins learned of the method on a trip to Nevada in 2013 to visit Nolan Preece, who had been using it since around 1999.  Here's a very early one by Nolan, done with HC-110 on Oriental paper:

Preece, Vessel, 1999

In perhaps a take on this, Higgins did the one below in 2013, using Ilfosol.  'I wet the paper and laid it on a flat surface, then dropped concentrate over it and finally let a sizeable amount of water run over it,' he says.  'You have to be careful to get all the concentrate off.'

Higgins, 198-3, 2013
Both Higgins and Preece report on methods within methods, for instance they may put Ilfosol in the refrigerator to make it more syrupy, or for the same purpose they may let it stand a couple of days in a tray to let the water part of its formulation evaporate.  In our nonfigurativephoto testing lab (NFPTL) we couldn't confirm the efficacy of this, in limited testing, but in theory it sounds good.  A further area of investigation is in toning, and in treating these imaging activities with booster chemicals like potassium hydroxide or ammonium thiocyanate.  Again, we haven't gone there yet.  Our first foray with HC-110 produced the one below, and the one below that.  Don't judge us too harshly, we're just testing.

NFPTL, HC-110 test, April 2016





NFPTL, HC-110 test, April 2016


This post wouldn't be complete without the powerful and disturbing image that kicked it off, from Higgins' book:

Higgins, 527-2, 2013
The Kodak HC-110 technical data can be found at www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/support/techPubs/j24/j24.pdf

The shelf life of both Ilfosol-3 and HC-110, while not infinite, is very long, much longer than with other developers, and this is another attraction in using them.  Their longevity is perhaps due to their very low water content, which tends to oxidize materials in the formulation.

For further information on any of the above contact Matt Higgins directly.



Saturday, March 26, 2016

Handcrafted: the book as fine art

Brittany Nelson, mordançage

Dan Estabrook - salted paper

There's a book on the market many of you have not had a chance to peruse, for reasons we'll get to, and that's really too bad because it's a beauty.  In China where it's published my sources tell me it has skyrocketed to become one of the best-selling photography books in the country, which is all the more surprising as its subject is alternative photography, that broad but laborious and demanding set of 19th century processes spiked, if you stretch its definition, by a clutch of contemporary craft methods, from bromoils, albumens and wet plate collodions to mordançages and chemigrams.  We in America don't often associate this niche activity with China, but the appetite for it, on the evidence, is overwhelming.  From this moment forward our preconceptions will need re-adjustment.

The book is Handcrafted: The Art and Practice of the Handmade Print by Sam Wang, Sandy King, Christina Z. Anderson and Zhong Jianming.  The authors, widely respected educators and photographers, saw an opportunity to satisfy a growing interest in American alternative photography after a lecture tour in 2006 to Chinese schools.  They met photographer Zhong Jianming at the Nanjing University of the Arts, who convinced the others that it was time to publish a book for the Chinese market, featuring real work by real artists, with emphasis on the word 'handcrafted' or shougong in Mandarin.  A proposal grew from that and was accepted; a first edition appeared in 2014 from Zhejiang Photographic Publishing Co. in Hangzhou (www.photo.zjcb.com, ISBN 978-7-5514-0957-5), celebrated by a string of exhibitions across China; a second edition came out in 2015 and a third is forthcoming in 2016.

exhibit in Pingyao, 2014
At almost 400 pages it's a big fat book, it takes up space, it weighs a lot.  Multiple works are shown by some 34 artists, many of whom have years of accomplishment behind them while others are hardly known beyond the community, all judiciously curated by the authors however to cover a range of specialties.  Though the accompanying text is in Mandarin, an English translation can be found at the end, along with bibliography, artist's statements, and notes on each process.

Yet it is not a textbook: you would never think of taking it into the darkroom with you - though some have.  Nor is it, in the kindest way of saying it, a manual of contemporary developments in esoteric realms of photography.  Rather, and this is where Handcrafted is unexpectedly a standout and a more general one than its authors could have wished, the book is, with its sumptuous textures, its fine paper coatings, its inks and their subtle application, a brooding and singular presence and object of fascination all by itself.  Imagine a coffee table book that is also sculpture, sculpture that can be touched, exposed, explored.  That is something of the feel of Handcrafted as it rests open before you.

Handcrafted

We begin to understand what's going on when we reflect on the culture that produced it.  Chinese civilization, largely unhindered by outside influences, has been advancing through history for four thousand years since neolithic times, accreting to itself along the way those sensibilities, those allegiances that define it still.  A taste for drawing, first on silk, then on paper, which it invented around the 1st century BC; a reverence for ink, its manufacture and nurture and use foremost in the holiest of pursuits, calligraphy, then in the portraiture of the Han dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), later the landscapes of the Tang (618-907).  There are texts from the 10th century that describe how inks are made from pine trees of a certain age, how to drain the resin and forge the lampblack and how, if desired, you can add gold powder or essence of musk to obtain certain coveted qualities. The 'ink meditation', a concept as far from our understanding as could be, became not just a monastic exercise, but a pathway to enlightenment and nirvana, embraced at the highest levels of society.

It should surprise no one that a culture that cares this deeply for paper and ink will make a book like this one.

 
Zhong Jianming, vandyke brown

Clay Harmon, polymer photogravure

Cynthia Huber, chemigram


Jill Skupin-Burkholder, bromoil

Douglas Collins, chemigram
Philip Schwartz, carbon


Shelby Koth, tricolor gum bichromate

You've come this far and you say, well then, how do I order it?  Good point.  It's not yet what you would call readily available in the West.  Online it can be purchased at www.amazon.cn (Amazon China) or www.taobao.com (owned by Alibaba), and while these huge Chinese sites do have an English tab to click on, the experience can be daunting - and you might not feel comfortable giving them your credit card, since most of the information is still in Mandarin.  An Australian site may be for you, at www.goldstreetstudios.com.au, and they do carry the book.  But we buy ours from Xinhua Bookstores, the Chinese government -owned book chain, which is starting to go international.  They have stores in New York, San Diego, London and elsewhere.  It's best wherever you go to identify the book by the ISBN number.  At the New York store the book arrives in 2 weeks and currently costs $71.50, which, all things considered (but don't say anything) is a steal.  And keep checking with amazon.com because sooner or later they too will want to carry it, if I'm Jeff Bezos.





Monday, February 8, 2016

Birgit Blyth at Carrie Haddad

Blyth, Marathon Series 1, 2015
We've been waiting a good number of years to find a moment to write about Birgit Blyth and the fault is all ours.  Today we're correcting it.  Her pictures in the current group show at Carrie Haddad Gallery in the upstate hamlet of Hudson, New York, on display until February 14, are powerful, crisp, elegant pictorial statements that will make us want to reconsider all her previous work.  We should have seen this coming.

Blyth, Marathon Series 2, 2015
Blyth, Marathon Series 3, 2015

Some background: Birgit has been working quietly in Cambridge, Massachusetts, since the 1970s.  She began in printmaking, then conventional photography, gradually migrating to alternative photography, pinholes, cyanotypes, van dyck browns, doubtless to other niche methods as well.  Her interests may seem fractured but each was given time to develop and bear fruit before she moved on; in hindsight the trajectory made sense.  She was learning and did what many of us do: she visited museums, she absorbed Morris Louis, Helen Frankenthaler, Brice Marden, Terry Winters - it's good to be infatuated with the best - and each left a mark on her.  She did residencies in Johannesburg, South Africa, 9 years running, and met William Kentridge.  Then at some point a friend showed her the article by Dominic Man-Kit Lam and Bryant Rossiter in Scientific American (November 1991) entitled 'Chromoskedasic Painting' and her artistic life changed forever.

So what exactly is this chromoskedasic painting that Birgit is doing?  Rossiter had derived the term from classical Greek to mean 'color scattering', indicating the mechanism by which the black light of silver grains in photographic emulsion can, if these grains are handled properly, yield a spectrum of yellows, reds, purples, greens and blues that we see in works of the chemigram type.  We've discussed this mechanism, the Mie effect, in the blog here and here and elsewhere.  And make no mistake about it, chromoskedasic painting is a kind of chemigram; Christina Z. Anderson calls it the chromoskedasic extension of the chemigram.  As things have turned out, there is one part of the 'chromo' agenda (to shorten Rossiter's mouthful of a word) that distinguishes it from simple chemigrams, and that is the crucial application of stabilizer and activator to the process, two additional chemicals that act somewhat like a hyper aggressive fixer and developer and help boost both coloration and silvering-out.  In short, if you don't have stabilizer and activator you aren't doing chromo.  For the geeks - I am one but I'll spare you - details on how they are thought to function can be found in the last two chapters of the late William Jolly's book, which is linked in the right-hand sidebar. 

Blyth's pictures then are chromoskedasic paintings, the term she is most comfortable with.  You paint on photo paper with chemicals - a certain palette of chemicals - and you watch and guide what happens.  In the early days she poured the chemicals directly onto the paper, let them flow and drip as in her splendid Veil series; later she resorted to a brush, and finally, recalling her printmaking experience, she went with resists, mostly Elmers glue, rubber cement, and tape, or what we would today call 'soft resists.'  Still, she is far from the world of incisions and mackie lines, the Cordier universe, although she is fine with that and the results prove, for the things that matter most to her, how right she is.

Blyth, Veil No. 29, 2009



Blyth, Veil No. 30, 2009


Blyth, Chromo Grid No. 13A, 2014
Let us now get back to the Marathon series that we led off with.  This series came into being as she was listening on the radio to the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev trial in Boston.  She had, before her on the workbench, a stack of old prints she'd been thinking about, one quite large, with the gridlike scaffolding she often uses as structure, the dominant lines mostly vertical.  Suddenly, in rage and fury, she tore it up - into smaller pieces, each holding still a memory of the larger one.  She looked at what she'd done and had an idea: I'll paint the torn edges red.  Just a bit, just where the tear was, and I'll make it an orange-red that screams - and that is what she did.  It's at Carrie Haddad.

Blyth, Marathon 4, 2015
Birgit uses all sorts of paper, expired or not, RC or FB, single or double weight, every kind of finish, glossy, pearl, you name it.  The Marathon series was Ilford RC glossy and the individual pieces are 8 x 10" more or less, having been torn down from 20 x 24".  She buys her chromo chemicals from Freestyle.  None of her work is editioned, each piece is unique.  She displays them uncovered - no glass, no plexi.   Sometimes she mounts them on aluminum.  

You have one more week to see this terrific work in person.  The train ride from Penn Station in NYC is two hours. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Franco's chemigrams on ortho litho film: a new path?

Marinai, untitled, 2015

Franco Marinai creates photogravures on copper plates, an older, uncompromising process in which it can take weeks to pull an acceptable print.  That kind of dedication is at the heart of his artistic practice, which has been discussed here before.  Few have the discipline or the skill to do it anymore, and he is part of a very select community.

But it so happens that sometimes, instead of starting with a photograph (his photography is highly regarded), he will fashion a chemigram - from scratch and on the fly - and he does this on the same orthochromatic litho film he uses as a route to photogravures, subjecting it to the same cycle of fixer and developer baths.  He has to be in the mood for it, and it's infrequent, but it does occur.  I try to be nearby when he's tempted.

This past December he found himself in one of these moods.  Working in daylight, he cut two 7" x 11" sheets from a pack of Arista Ortho Litho Film that he buys from Freestyle (their link is on the right-hand sidebar).  

litho film from Freestyle, Los Angeles

He applied the same resist to each, in this case a pleasant, dabbed-on pattern of Elmer's glue, the standard polyvinyl acetate based glue used in schools and by hobbyists and children worldwide.  He let it dry overnight to get it good and hard.  (Chemigramists will recognize this as one of the commonest of soft resists, and many won't let it dry at all but plunge it promptly into chemistry in a matter of seconds.  Methods do vary.)

Next he took the two sheets of film, now resist-coated, and sent them off simultaneously in different directions, one in a fixer bath, the other in undiluted Dektol.  He calls this his 'separate at birth' routine and he often follows it as it leads to the strongly graphic results he favors, particularly when he amps up the contrast during the itinerary of each.  Here you have the two trays at the outset:

Each film starts in the opposite chemistry

The films were switched back and forth in normal chemigram fashion with occasional rinsing in between, over a period of several hours, for by then the resists had completely eroded away.  But what is surprising from such a meticulous worker as Franco, who I've known for years, is that the steps were just as often done without rinsing at all: the contamination of the two baths at times was sought, in a maneuver he has called, with a nod to Nietsche, 'Dionysian',  meaning wild, exultant, partaking of the mysteries.  Well, mysteries he got. 

Marinai, untitled, 2015

Marinai, untitled, 2015

This last one is worth lingering over.  You'll notice the left and right sides look different - in fact the right side looks as if it were dunked in developer from the start, while the left looks, hmm, a bit mixed.  This is true.  The left side was immersed only a few inches into fixer at the start, then quickly went into developer, then back into fixer a ways further, i.e. a few more inches, and so on, so that only by degrees did the entire left side come to share in the chemigram experience equally.

What is the fate then of these rich, gorgeous films?  They get turned into photogravures, that's what, printed in black ink on printmaking paper.  But all is not lost: no longer needed for their primary job, the films themselves are preserved and live on in Franco's archives; he has hundreds of them.  And with some he plays around further still, as in the one below where he has done a bleach-etch (note the veils) and on top of that has laid some hand coloring with gold varnish in a kind of go-for-broke flourish you can only do at the end of a long work week.

Marinai, The Golden Age, 2015

I'm going to tell you something else about Franco.  Every morning, weather permitting, he goes out jogging along the mighty East River just a few blocks from his lower Manhattan home.  Jogging is a grueling sport and for some it's a time to think about things, take your mind off your legs and lungs.  Franco thinks about the darkroom.  The day he made the chemigrams above he'd looked over his shoulder and snapped a picture of the river with his phone, just a record of his thoughts.  Here it is, in its bleakness, fog and power, a reminder.


Marinai, East River, 2015
 





Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Revisiting 'Squares in Love' for the new year

Pierre Cordier & Gundi Falk, Squares in Love, 2011
You've seen this chemigram before: it was the end-of-the-year postcard greeting that Pierre sent to our blog in 2011.  Everyone enjoyed it then, and we thought we'd dust it off after four years to see if it has retained its enchantment and sweetness.  The good news is that it has, and even improved with age, which suggests we may have missed something on the first go around, either that or we've grown in artistic wisdom, perhaps in the emotional stuff too.

Recently I asked him if the pucker and kiss action between each pair of amorous squares had been planned, and he said no, they did it on their own.  I believe him.  Squares from time to time will do that, unattended, as we know from experience in our own studio.  One of the mysteries of the process is that we're not alone when we create a chemigram but instead, despite ourselves, soon find as we work that we have company, little beings that come to inhabit lines and spaces and move by themselves, where they will, on dark schedules and at glacial speeds.  But given enough time anything is possible, even love - or, as we calculated in a post in November of 2010, a trip around the world on the back of a mackie line.  This cannot fail to encourage us for the coming year.

Taking a closer look, we are able to enjoy the subtle unevenness in the nested ranks of color, converging from all directions: while overall the same in pattern, on the micro scale they're quite rippled and lapping.  This tends to make them appear fuzzy, but satisfyingly so, an aspect we embrace, a fuzziness underscored as well by the sharp accents of the imperfections, motes, and dust specks - all of them accidents - which the artists have wisely left behind, calling them 'beauty marks' to keep with the anthropomorphic 'love' metaphor.  Here's a close-up of the right lower quadrant:

detail, lower right
Suddenly at this level everything starts to change, and the kissing activity of the squares is forgotten: it is as though we are examining a histological sample of tissue and instead of ectoderm and muscle the real players are now nerve bundles and nodes of genetic material.  We have zoomed in past the living image; it grows stranger, more exotic - and yet it is the same and has been there all along.  From sweetness and light to another world - and back, as we pull away again.  The picture bears viewing on all levels and rewards you handsomely for it.

We offer some basic production facts.  The paper is Ilford Galerie 21K, the resist is Golden Glossy spray varnish.  The back was covered with a sheet of adhesive to reduce unwanted seepage of moisture, in an effort to prolong adherence of the resist on the front.  The picture we have called 'Squares in Love' above is actually part of a larger picture consisting of 1531 squares (yes!) from which this one, or these squares, were culled.  The proper title of the parent picture, for the record, is Chimigramme 1/9/11 II, so that 'Squares in Love' is actually a detail of it.  It should be noted that not all the squares in the parent picture were in love, far from it.  In fact, the artists had to go over it with a loupe to find those that were; we're grateful for their diligence.  It was completed in 2011, the first year of the collaboration between Pierre Cordier and Gundi Falk. 

Happy New Year.







Monday, November 30, 2015

Cameraless at Soho Photo



Soho, New York City

Soho Photo, formed nearly half a century ago and still going strong, is a cooperative photo gallery tucked into Lower Manhattan opposite the ultra-hip Roxy Hotel.  Its shows are always of interest, and every year they put on an alternative process exhibition where you can view some of the best in historical methods: tintypes, calotypes, daguerrotypes, cyanotypes, gum bichromates, lumens, and (not so historical) chemigrams.  We went down to inspect the turnout this year and our eye was immediately lured by the cameraless end of the roster, where beautiful and accomplished chemigrams predominated.  Is it my imagination, or has the number of chemigrams represented increased over the years?  As I recollect, a decade ago they didn't even know what a chemigram was -  I phoned them back then and they had to look it up in a dictionary.  This year there were four chemigrams on the walls.  So, at this rate...


First, here is Veronica Hodgkinson with The Grid (2015), looking unselfconsciously minimalist like an early Cordier or, to make the point more emphatic, like a Carl Andre version from 1969 at the Tate in London.

Hodgkinson, The Grid, 2015
Andre, 144 Magnesium Square, 1969

If you love your chemigrams you'll love this one.  Each square seems to be relaxed about where its imagery is heading; nothing's in a hurry.  The chemistry and resist do the work, with Veronica looking on patiently, tweezers in hand, for the right moment to assist or not.  It's the classic look but I never tire of it.  Incidentally, the resist was not what you think: it was sticky labels - Rich will be excited to hear that - so we can assume the whole procedure took relatively little time, start to finish.  The paper was Kodak AZO, single weight, expired 1977, and her chemistry was from Sprint.

Hodgkinson, Losing It, 2015

In a somewhat different vein is Losing It (2015), a glorious, dancing bit of hybrid work, with photogrammed blots of human hair, presumably the artist's, merging with tiny pools of chemigramish material at each station of a balletic space.  It was created on Kodak Polymax II RC paper, expired 2003.

Nolan Preece is seen with The Clearing, a resist-driven piece, the tiny crackles and fissures in the surface amounting to a signature of sorts for the type of acrylic floor wax that he used.  The whole conception is simple and rather effective and quite welcome.

Preece, The Clearing, 2015
 Here's a detail from the lower left of the picture:

Preece, detail


His linework has an almost fractal quality, in that the closer you get the farther you see you must go to get it all.  It is this infinitely self-generating property of chemigrams and their resists that endlessly fascinates.








Eva Nikolova will not be left out, contributing a large paneled work entitled Tributaries (2015) consisting of 12 chemigrams 5x7" each on Dupont Defender Velour Black, expired 1944.


I never quite know how to talk about her work: is it history or geography, vision or curse?  Are these deep placid rivers draining a ravaged landscape to the sea, where it will be cleansed and renewed?  Like so many chemigrams, this one must be seen up close (maybe at 3 inches!), so we will look for clues there.  Especially telling is the deft treatment of her trademark resists - peanut butter, guava paste, marshmellow fluff (see the previous post), but for us they both reveal all and hide everything as quickly.  And like in Preece's work, the closer you get to it the more you realize you don't know anything.  It's that damned fractality of chemigrams that gives us amazing work like this - in part, but the rest is pure Eva.

Nikolova, detail

Nikolova, detail
veronica-hodgkinson.com
nolanpreece.com
evanikolova.com
sohophoto.com

Friday, November 13, 2015

A recent chemigram workshop at ICP with Eva Nikolova

figure 1

At the last minute, Rich Turnbull, my usual co-conspirator and fellow chemigram artist, couldn't make it - they needed him at the Metropolitan Museum to lecture on some bizarre topic that he's expert on, or soon would be if you gave him an hour or so with Wikipedia.  Rich is their back-up academic star and they know it, which, if I were less diplomatic, I would call star abuse.  So I had no choice but to turn to Eva Nikolova to fill in for him and what an unexpected surprise that turned out to be, though I'd had inklings of what was going to happen: I'd seen her work in shows around town for several years, her scarred depictions of ruined dream cities made of the most chaste of materials, and had become a big fan.  What I hadn't counted on was how ready she was to communicate her secret processes to the New York public, for that was to come.

In our little chemigram community, Eva is known for introducing strange new products into the process such as guava paste, marshmellow fluff, peanut butter, lipstick - the list goes crazily on.  If you divide chemigram resists into hard and soft depending on the length of time it takes them to loosen their hold on the photographic paper, the items in Eva's toolbox are all soft resists, which can be used separately or together with 'traditional' soft resists like PVA glue (Elmer's glue) or Karo syrup.  Some are displayed in figure 2, waiting for students to overcome their uncertainty and try them.  Most definitely, Eva is not a purist.

figure 2

Herewith I give you samples of the work our group turned out by day's end, much of it fascinating, all of it entertaining; space limits me from showing more but I could.  As facilitators and guides in this, our job is to point the students in certain directions, show them established methods, suggest possibilities, and then let them have a go at it.  At first they proceed tentatively, feeling their way along, but soon enough they find the handle, or a handle, and begin to assert themselves.  One of the joys of teaching this is to watch the inventiveness of these encounters, student to photographic paper, with their quirks and the individual trace of their personalities, as they embark into regions not only unknown to them but, we soon realize, oftener than we like to admit, to us as well. 

figure 3


figure 4

Here's one that's as rich in depth as you could want, done with what appears to be a combination of guava paste and peanut butter - correct me, readers, if I've got this wrong.  Any lipstick?

figure 5

There's more.  Figure 6 (fig. 1 and 3 as well) shows the rich dark reds obtainable from certain vintage papers, dating from those golden days before papers got their cadmium reformulated away (see our post on this here), not to speak of other mystery substances.  Taking a page from Alison's notebook, Eva thoughtfully provided us with a bounty of gifts: Kodabromide E4 SW expired 1941, Kodabromide F-1 Glossy DW expired 1967 ("dreamy blues, lavenders, silvery greys" says Eva), Dupont Defender Grade 3 DW expired 1951, and Ilford MG 26K FB Velvet Stipple DW expired 1962.  It makes my eyes misty to think about it.  My contribution was the comparatively prosaic Adorama FB Glossy and Fomatone FB Matt, with odd leftovers of Ilford thrown in.  


figure 6

In figure 7, note the canny use of the remaining hard resist (Golden MSA varnish) as design element on a piece of Ilford FB paper.  Most would have continued until all the resist had lifted - I might have too - but not this artist.  A nice call indeed.


figure 7

Figure 8, below, shows what can be done with PVA glue if the snatch point is carefully calculated - by intuition of course.  If snatch point isn't already a keyword in this blog, let's make it one.  That's the moment, usually quite early in the tray dance if you're using soft resists, when you snatch the paper out of one chemical very quickly and thrust it into another, in order to suddenly arrest the action.  A matter of seconds can make all the difference.  In the lower part of the picture observe the white skid marks from the hydrodynamics of a sudden thrust into developer from a fixer launch.


figure 8

We can learn something from each image we present - each has a tale to tell.  For now, pay particular attention to figure 9, where two thickly slathered arrays of Eva's resists have received the same chemical attacks.

figure 9
In one peanut-butter is the main actor, in the other it's lipstick.  Here's a detail of the upper part:

figure 9, detail

Let's look at more work, picking them almost at random.  Here's a soft-resist I like.

figure 10

And another, with hybrid marks drawn from different traditions.

figure 11

Sometimes, the softest marks are those that stay with you the longest.

figure 12

Participants included Mary Alestra, Michelle Bratsafolis, Carol Chu, Sarah Davis, Mira Dayal, Nadezhda Neusypina, and Kiera Wood.  Hats off to all!

                                                   *  *  *

For those interested, Rich Turnbull is doing a chemigram workshop on November 21 at the Penumbra Foundation, just 8 blocks south of here in midtown Manhattan.

International Center of Photography  
www.icp.org

Eva Nikolova
www.evanikolova.com

Penumbra Foundation
www.penumbrafoundation.org

Douglas Collins