Nick Brandreth's Posts

Nick Brandreth is the Historic Process Specialist at George Eastman House.

Making Fiber Based Photographic Paper Again in Rochester!

Posted by on Mar 07 2014 | Other, Photography

We’re getting ready for a fantastic Handmade Gelatin Photographic Paper workshop and it’s simply too fascinating to let slip by without mention.



In the early 1890s a new type of gelatin emulsion paper was introduced that was contact printed like the albumen print, but unlike albumen printing the image was made visible by a developer. The photographs were black and white, not shades of brown. This product was originally called “gaslight paper” because you could use your household gas light turned low as a darkroom safe light and use the same light turned up brighter to do the actual exposures with the paper in contact with a negative. One of the Kodak versions of this photographic paper was called “Azo” and it was manufactured until several years ago. In the past few years we have worked with Ron Mowrey, a retired Kodak emulsion engineer, to learn how to make and coat this type of emulsion. Not only is it one of the easiest emulsions we have made, but the results are extraordinary.

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Working in the darkroom is often described as a magical experience. For almost every lover of analog photography the decisive moment of that magical experience can be pin pointed to that instant the latent image explodes to life from a seemingly blank piece of paper. Sadly for many people bitten by the photo bug in our digital world this is an experience might never have the pleasure of enjoying, however its never to late to start!

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Actually making and using Azo emulsion to coat your own photographic papers and create stunning black and white contact prints is an experience that will take even the most seasoned photographer back to that first time they ever experienced the magic. If having that feeling again isn’t enough also take into account that you have created your prints entirely by hand. Taking raw materials and turning them into something beautiful is one of the more rewarding experiences one can have.

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The workshop is from March 17-20 and we still have a few spots available for this great class. For more information and on-line registration please go to: http://bit.ly/GEHWorkshops

 

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What is a Digital Negative?

Posted by on Jan 30 2014 | Behind The Scenes, Other, Photography, Tutorials

We’re excited about a new workshop at George Eastman House in February: Digital Negative Making. For years we have taught a growing number of photographers how to make their own photographic negatives on glass using historic processes. Realizing that not everyone is interested in going that route, we decided to look into a new approach for the rest of the world: the “digital” negative.
 
But what is a digital negative? A digital negative is a negative image printed onto a transparency film using an inkjet printer. Once the original image is in your computer it can be edited “to taste” and prepared for lots of really interesting alternative photographic printing processes. The digital negative bridges the gap between 19th and 21st century photographic processes. You can use old glass plate or film negatives, that last bit of type 55 Polariod film you love so much, or even a digital capture from a smart phone.
 
Once you’ve decided on a printing process, like salted paper, platinum, or gum printing, a series of test prints are made to create a “printing curve.” This curve will be applied to the file before printing to help optimize the negative for the selected processes. The printing curve is a layer in Photoshop that has been adjusted for the specific paper printing process you’ve chosen. The curve allows the print to have smooth continuous mid tones while still keeping strong black tones and clean white tones. Once these tests are completed you never have to look back as the final steps are a check list of settings which once set, can be saved and applied the same way every time.
 
Here are some examples of Digital Negative Making in action:
 

Two hand made salted paper prints. The negative used to print these were created from Instagram files from a smart phone.

Two hand made salted paper prints. The negative used to print these were created from Instagram files from a smart phone.


 
A digital negative printing on ink press transparency film, the green cast is added to help give the negative spectral density.

A digital negative printing on ink press transparency film, the green cast is added to help give the negative spectral density.


 
An albumen print from a digital negative. The original 4x5 negative was created using a hand made gelatin dry plate.

An albumen print from a digital negative. The original 4×5 negative was created using a hand made gelatin dry plate.


 
 Two hand made salted paper prints and the original digital file on the phone that captured it.

Two hand made salted paper prints and the original digital file on the phone that captured it.

Digital Negative Making is a technique that photographers could have only dreamed of in the past. Now we can easily combine the precision editing and tonal control of digital with the beauty and magic of alternative photographic printing processes. All this and more will be covered in our very first digital negative making workshop at the George Eastman House Museum next month. Sign up today! Hope to see you there!
 

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