Anyone know the history of Lith printing?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by ic-racer, Feb 22, 2008.

  1. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    I got my MFA in 1988 and don't recall much if anything about the technique. I really found out about it reading a book about it at "Borders Books" of all places. This was 1999.

    I searched through my library and I have a great book called Space Capsule by Michael Becotte. It clearly is all done with lith printing. The date is 1975.

    "American Images; photography 1945-1980" Pete Turner, No clear lith images.

    "A critical history of American Photography" by Jonathan Green has no clear lith images. He does reporduce a Michael Becotte image (1974), but the reproduction does not show the lith character.

    I checked Beaumont Newhall and there is no reference to the technique. It does show a 1971 Les Krims "Homage to the Crosstar Filter" that looks like the lith printing technique.

    There is a self portriat by Bruce Nauman dated 1970 that could be lith printing. If so this would be the earliest I have found. Here is a reproduction on the web: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/graphics/slideshows/nauman/b8.jpg

    Anyone know anything more?
     
  2. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council

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    Anton Corbijn, probably not the inventor of lith, is however instrumental in making lith a recognizable look.
     
  3. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    I saw your thread ( http://www.apug.org/forums/forum50/36031-lith-printing-rock-music.html ) on Corbijn but need to do some more research on dates to see when his 'look' started to be popular. I know the 1980 USA release of U2's 'Boy' had a standard 'black-or-white' lith image but that is atributed to Sandy Porter so his association with them must have been later than that.

    I see that he did some early work with Joy Division, but none of my Joy Division albums have any pictures...
     
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  4. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    check out Tim Rudman's most recent book it might have some information. I don't have it handy or i would give you better information.
     
  5. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    You may want to look into Mike Spry*Downtown Darkrooms* , he is a printer in the UK. I believe he introduced Anton Corjbin to the lith look, before Corjbins work I attributed the look to heavy bleach sepia and selenium, before I started to do lith prints with the AB devs, 1997/98 was a fairly good imitation but not exact look.
    I had not heard of Micheal Beacotte , and I will look into his work, thanks for posting his name.
     
  6. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I don't have the books here in Turkey but there are some Bob Carlos Clarke images from the 70's that look remarkably like Lith prints, probably made around the time he was at the Royal College of Art in London. I think he said he used a reprographics type paper

    Carlos Clarke, Bob, Obsession, Quartet, UK, 1981
    Carlos Clarke, Bob, The Illustrated Delta of Venus - with short stories by Anaïs Nin, published by WH Allen, 1980

    Ian
     
  7. Martin Reed

    Martin Reed Advertiser

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    This is going back to 1984 - I had started importing Seagull paper into the UK (Silverprint Co.) & gave Mike Spry some samples. He started playing around with it in lith & discovered it was perfect for Anton's style. As far as I know Mike was the first to use Seagull in lith, even Oriental the manufacturers hadn't seen it used this way. All Anton's stuff has been on it since, but the stock of Seagull is nearly exhausted & there's nowhere to turn!
     
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  8. Martin Reed

    Martin Reed Advertiser

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    Tim Rudman is the man to put in the chair here. But my limited knowledge is that although the 'modern era' of lith printing started in 1984 with Oriental Seagull (above), it was known and used regularly as a specialised technique back into the sixties. The paper of choice was Kodalith LP, a thin FB paper with a beautiful lustrous matt finish. Discontinued by the mid 70's, I still have some that works, & so do quite a few old timers. It might show up rarely on ebay, & seems to age well so grab some if you find it. The key to these papers is the cadmium salts that were used in the emulsion-making, giving accelerated development of metallic silver in the shadows. Virtually all cadmium use seems to finished now, so the choices are dwindling.
     
  9. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Hi Martin

    My hat is off to you, Mike Spry is one of my heros , He has printed for those I admire and was/is the printer for Catherine Ashmore who I had the pleasure of working with in the early 90's. She is one of the best stage photographers around and she used Mike back then.

    The original G4 in Nova Lith was spectacular but the new G4 can still hold its own.

    Les McLean has offered to take be to Mr Sprys offices if I ever make it to the UK, which would be quite a pleasure/honour to meet him.
     
  10. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Kodalith was the paper Bob Carlos Clarke used for some of his early images, and at the talk I went to he mentioned he had almost no paper left, Martin has just jogged my memory. I still have 2 packets of part used Oriental Seagull from 1984 or 85 which I remember Martin suggesting I try, it was a nice paper but I didn't like the off-white base.

    Ian
     
  11. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    I discovered the lith development technique a few
    years ago while experimenting with a low sulfite very
    dilute hydroquinone developer. I left an otherwise flat
    print in the developer for eight minutes. The contrast
    had come up and after wards it dawned on me that
    the developer had produced a lith print. I knew
    because I had read descriptions of it's
    processing characteristics.

    So I can't help but think the production of lith prints
    may have been as early as the 1800s. Print production
    may have even preceded the use of lith developers with
    film in the graphic arts and making of half-tones. Dan
     
  12. Martin Reed

    Martin Reed Advertiser

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    Hi Bob,

    It will be great to see you, but give us plenty of advance notice,

    Mike now only works on 'giant prints' ie bigger than 20x24" and other work is done by Sharon Easterling here. Mike is more or less retired now and only comes in to print when he has jobs lined up.

    We saw Les a few weeks ago and he spent half a day here, which I think was more than he was expecting!

    Martin
     
  13. Martin Reed

    Martin Reed Advertiser

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    Was it definitely Seagull, which has always been a very bright paper? There was another chloro-bromide Oriental paper called 'Center', which although promising much never really delivered, and as you say was off-white. It was replaced with the ultra slow Oriental 'Portrait' which was dropped when the company restructured in the late '90's.

    Yes, Bob Carlos Clarke was one of the early Kodalith adopters. I think the Kodalith LP lent itself to small intense images, I don't recall seeing it used very large, and as it was on such a thin base it was difficult to make large prints without damage.
     
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  15. Martin Reed

    Martin Reed Advertiser

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    Tim might correct me, but possibly the definition of 'lith' development has to incorporate the presence of the infectious development cycle, which in normal lith development gives ultra high contrast with no half tones, and then in pictorial lith where the print must be 'pulled' rapidly at the point where the infectious development has delivered the desired half tone image.

    A colour effect can be obtained by other types of development but it's not really lith. Kodak's history says Kodalith was launched in 1931, so that might be as far as one can go back.
     
  16. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I stand corrected, yes it was Oriental Centre, I have a print I made on it here with me in Turkey. It was a very nice paper, rich and warm, and it toned nicely in Selenium, but it's the base colour which stopped me using it more.

    Presumably by 83/84 Bob Carlos Clarke was predominantly using Agfa papers, it would be interesting tom know if he was lith processing Record Rapid, or Portriga around that time, my guess is he was.

    Ian
     
  17. tim rudman

    tim rudman Member

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    I am surprised that no one has mentioned Gene Nocon here. He was printing professionally with Kodalith paper in his London darkrooms in the early 80's for sure and I expect earlier. I met him first around '84 if I remember the date approximately. I spent a few days printing with him and he showed me his Kodalith prints then, for which he was becoming known. Kodalith was discontinued and his stocks were running down. I used the lith process with Oriental, which was the next best thing and very very easy to lith print on. Then Sterling Lith came on the scene from India. The first generation of this was wonderful for Lith and I still have some 20 x16 deep frozen. It then altered its character somewhat 'overnight' and this strange phenomenum of pepper fogging was suddenly there - between one batch and the next. The manufacturer denied absolutely that the paper had changed, and so did the plant foreman in India when I spoke to him, but changed it was and it was never the same again. It was still a fabulous paper (once the pepper cure was nailed down), but it was different.
    Martin (Reed) sent me some old Kodalith paper out of historical interest when I was writing the first Lith book. It was probably 20 years old and its storage details were not known (to me at least) so we were not too sure how well it would print. It printed like a dream and had a character and a look all of its own.
    Tim
     
  18. Paul Goutiere

    Paul Goutiere Subscriber

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    There is another as well:
    Artist will use a printing process called "Lithography" whence the word "Lith". Lithography is literally "writing on stone". Lith is latin for stone.

    Alois Senefelder invented lithography in 1798. The process relies on the fact that water and grease repel one another. Artists were able to draw directly onto a flat stone surface with a greasy ink which was attracted to the dry stone surface and which, in turn, would attracted the printing ink, while the background absorbed water. The area of the surface that was damp repelled the printing ink. This is called a planographic process. Senefelder used the process to print sheet music. It was a process that could be used for book illustrations, artist's prints, packaging, posters etc.

    I lifted the info from this site

    www.flemings.u-net.com/litho.htm
     
  19. Martin Reed

    Martin Reed Advertiser

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    Gene never seemed to accept there was any alternative to Kodalith LP and put a whole chapter devoted to it in his book although it had long gone by then.

    Yes, it was a great shame the way Sterling Lith went downhill after the first batches. One never really gets straight answers from manufacturers about emulsion chemistry, but I expect it had something to do with having to reduce the cadmium content or changing another restricted ingredient.

    I did some printing on Fomatone glossy (with a standard warmtone dev.) a week or two ago & found it to be much yellower in base colour than when we first began importing it. I haven't tried lithing it yet, but fear the worst, the cadmium may have gone, & the base tint has been bigged-up to compensate. I think you have been holding it up as the last true resource for lith, Tim, so we'd better look into it.
     
  20. Mike Crawford

    Mike Crawford Member

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    Interesting topic this and one I was talking to a client about a few weeks ago. He certainly remembers lith printing in the late 60s at college and said that at the time, John Claridge was using the technique quite a bit. I also remember seeing an exhibition about ten years ago and being surprised that there were some lith prints, (named as Kodalith in the description I think), which were dated from the 60s, however I can't say for sure who the photographer was. I think it was Terence Donovan though don't quote me. Of course Mike Spry was around then, setting up Downtown, so he is the one to ask. My assumption, (and that's all it is), is that undiluted lith dev, which was originally used to produce pure black text and illustrations on lith film and papers for the reprographic industry, was used to make very graphic pure black and white prints from continuous tone negatives. The colourful lith effect was discovered by either accident, pulling the prints out before the 3 minute dev, (or was it 2 minutes 45?), or by noticing the intermediate step before the image went black, and then diluting the developer to make the snatch point more controllable. All sounds very groovy and 60s to me. Incidently, if you ever come across some discontinued Kodak sheet lith film, this prints wonderfully in diluted lith dev to make lith transparencies, and gives an idea what Kodalith paper was capable of.

    One wee question. Bob mentioned that the current Oriental still works. I'm sure this has been covered elsewhere on Apug, and I don't want to start a big debate, but I was under the impression that what is being sold today as Seagull doesn't work in Lith. Any definitive answers?
    Many thanks
    Mike.
    PS. I taught myself lith printing by studying Gene Nocon's book many times in a bookshop in Covent Garden when it first came out and then running back to the lab I was working at to try it out. Not sure now why I didn't just buy the book!
     
  21. Martin Reed

    Martin Reed Advertiser

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    Well, that's where the photographic lith terminology came from, it's been hijacked from the original application, high contrast film images for making lithographic plates. Kodalith was a user-friendly substitute for the old cadmium based wet collodion plates used for litho ink printing well into the 20'th century - part of the system was the formaldehyde based 'lith' developer which we're still using to try to wring something out of what's left of the modern papers.
     
  22. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Fomatone (don't mean to hijack)

    This is all really fascinating information.

    The comment you made on Fomatone has me a bit worried. It's my favorite lith paper, and if it has changed, it will be tough to find anything that is anything near what that paper is like.
    Will you please, with sugar on top, let us know here what you find in regards to that? I am just about to purchase paper again, and don't want to spend hundreds of dollars in vain.

    Thanks,

    - Thomas

     
  23. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Hi Mike

    The Oriental G 4 that I purchased not 6 months ago seemed to work quite well. I have used the original G4 that was frozen and my memory says it popped maybe more than the current version but the VC version does not work so well in my darkroom.

    Kodak Elite , though not a favorite paper for regular printing for me , was a beautiful paper for lith printing, it really went wacky .
     
  24. Martin Reed

    Martin Reed Advertiser

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    Sorry, I don't want to start a panic, I'll get Shane at work (he's the lith specialist) to have a good look at the current Foma glossy & semimatt in the next day or 2 & report back.

    Martin
     
  25. Trevor Crone

    Trevor Crone Member

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    David Lyons was using Kodalith during the late 1970's early '80's.

    He exhibited some of his Kodalith prints in his one-man exhibition, "Beyond the Fields We Know", at the Side Gallery, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England, 1979. Some of this work was also published in Camera magazine around about the same time.
     
  26. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    Gene Nokon, a British import to San Diego, may not have been the first, but he likely was the first to make lith printing well known. I don't know the year he won the Ilford annual contest with lith prints, but it was about 20 years ago. Prior to his emigration to the US he was photographer to one of the princes and did a lot of work with the Royal Family.