Gustave Le Grey's Paper Negatives

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by Shinnya, Apr 16, 2006.

  1. Shinnya

    Shinnya Advertiser Advertiser

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    Gustave Le Gray's Paper Negatives

    Hi,

    Could anyone point me to resources of making paper negatives in general as well as Le Grey's technological achievement in regard to paper negatives?

    Any lead would be appreciated. Thanks for your time.

    Warmly,
    Tsuyoshi
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 16, 2006
  2. DarkroomDan

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  3. Kobin

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    Alan Greene's "Primitive Photography"; can be had from amazon.com

    K.
     
  4. Photo Engineer

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    Basically, a paper negative is made by coating a light sensitive material on paper and exposing it in-camera. You get an image that is a negative and is improperly reversed with respect to a normal negative.

    This paper can then be scanned, reversed, and inverted to get a positive image for printing. Another method is to oil the paper itself, rendering it partially transparent and then you can print through it onto another piece of paper. This is tricky to do as you must not affect the print material. Another method is to use a very translucent or thin paper for the coating. This too is very difficult due to the thinness of the paper you are coating on. Usually, this latter is done by dipping one surface of the paper into a tray of emulsion.

    Throughout, you must remember that you will gain 2 - 3 stops in speed from the emulsion when coated on paper, as compared to the same emulsion coated on glass or film support, due to back reflection from the paper.

    Results vary from paper to paper. I have gotten as low as ISO 6 and as high as ISO 200 from my emulsions when making paper negatives.

    PE
     
  5. Jimmy Peguet

    Jimmy Peguet Subscriber

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    Tsuyoshi,

    I don't know if you read french or if it can help you, here is Le Gray's text of the "Traité pratique de photographie sur papier et sur verre" on one of the sites of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (French national library). Other old photographic books here.
     
  6. Shinnya

    Shinnya Advertiser Advertiser

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    Jimmy,

    I wish I could understand French...

    I know he was the one who used the wax to make the paper more translucent. There was something about the way he applied the wax which made his negatives more technically superior than what other people were using back then. Sharpness was one thing, I think

    I just cannot remember exact story and where I read it... I really want to find out how he did it. Does the text say anything about it? Thanks everyone.

    Warmly,
    Tsuyoshi

    p.s.: Yes, it is Le Gray, not Le Grey...



     
  7. donbga

    donbga Member

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    Tsuyoshi,

    A freind of mine here in Atlanta, Jan Kapoor, has written an article about making paper negatives that you may wish to read.

    http://www.alternativephotography.com/articles/art040.html
     
  8. Jimmy Peguet

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  9. Photo Engineer

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    I get the message:

    Le document que vous avez demandé n'est pas accessible.

    PE
     
  10. Shinnya

    Shinnya Advertiser Advertiser

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    Actually,

    This is great article about it. If anyone is interested in:

    http://photography.about.com/library/weekly/aa070802a.htm

    Sharpness, transportability, and translucency were the three advantages of Le Gray's method. He actually published the instruction of his process after obtaining a patent in 1854 which name I cannot find yet.

    I actually happened to have a book on him from Getty. This is a problem when you buy books left to right...

    Warmly,
    Tsuyoshi
     
  11. Shinnya

    Shinnya Advertiser Advertiser

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    Jimmy,

    I will ask someone that I know... I wish I could understand it right away.

    Warmly,
    Tsuyoshi



     
  12. Jimmy Peguet

    Jimmy Peguet Subscriber

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    Le document que vous avez demandé n'est pas accessible.

    I've just opened the link some minutes ago. The site has sometimes some troubles, try again. The main page is http://gallica.bnf.fr/ and then "Recherche" ("Search").

    Jimmy
     
  13. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    tsuyoshi -

    i am not too familiar with le gray's work, but there is a little bit about him
    when you google his name:

    http://artscenecal.com/ArticlesFile/Archive/Articles2002/Articles0702/GLeGrayA.html

    regarding shooting paper negatives.
    i have been shooting with paper for a while now, much cheeper than using film!

    if you are shooting in film holders, you have to trim about 1/16 or 1/32 of the edge off, film holders are not true to their name, because the plate size was 4x5 &C, and when they put those funny sheaths in there for film, it reduced the size - and when the companies standardized the sizes for film they settled on the smaller sizes, rather than the plate sizes ...

    anyhow, you might hear that paper has a relative asa that is very high or like slow film speeds, i have never encountered papers that were faster than asa 12 .. at one point i tested 15 different papers and most of them were between 3 and 12 ... i usually shoot either single weight poly max fb, or single weight ilford fb. i have also done a bunch of stuff with older kodak fiber base (yellow box) that was double weight. in all 3 cases, i settled at about asa 6 and underexpose a 1/2 stop. a "thin" paper negative is easier to print than a "dense" one ... when you process your paper, use dilute developer. i usually use aged ansco 130 ( brown like coca cola when i have it around ) and when the image comes up i put it in a water bath to slow things down a bit, then i stick it back in the developer - back and forth a few times until i get what i want. i don't have contrast filters big enough to cover my front elements, but if you are using vc paper, you might experiment a little bit using them - jersey vic does that and gets really sweet images! if you have graded paper try using grade 1, or 2 instead of the "normal" grade ... it might take a little experimenting to see what works for you - in the end you might get images you like doing something completely different -

    once you get your negative, there are a few ways you can get a postive print - you can scan+invert - this will give you a nice image, but you will get sharpness not offered when you contact print ... you can also wet contact your paper to another sheet. you will get a nice bond emulsion to emulsion it'll be sharp, but at the same time printing through paper will also give you a softness that is hard to describe. i have used vc paper and contrast filters when making prints, but i have also used fogged paper ( for my negative!) to lessen the contrast. you will get a fair amount of contrast, if you photograph in sunlight and not shady- or dimly lit -stuff.

    photography is all one big experiment -- good luck and have fun!

    -john
     
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  15. Photo Engineer

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    If you use paper, remember that it is thicker than film and therefore in 4x5 holders it is slightly off the plane of focus. If you use a polaroid back, paper is exactly on the plane of focus.

    PE
     
  16. jnanian

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    times like this, i wish i had a 5x7 and 8x10 polaroid back!

    john
     
  17. George Papantoniou

    George Papantoniou Member

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    Le Gray was the best... there was an exhibition in Paris a few years ago (Bibliotheque Nationale, site Richelieu, may-June 2002) that included some of his best prints. If you can find the book published (the above exhibition's catalogue, Editions Gallimard) you'll see what I'm talking about.

    I coudn't find the French URL either. I know that when he worked with paper negs, he used the waxing method in order to increase the paper's light transmissivity (does this word exist ??????? :smile: and get better contrast and detail. This method was at first developed by Blanquart-Evrard together with Le Gray and was widely used by the photographers of the famous "mission photographique", the mission of documenting France's historical monuments.
    There may be other details of the technique that I miss, though.

    Many of his pictures exhibited in the abovementioned expo were made on glass negs. Some of the original glass negatives were on display, too.
     
  18. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    Well, while I won't argue that this is technically correct, the Arista.EDU Ultra VC RC paper I use for most of my printing is only .009" (0.23 mm) thick, or about .002" thicker than common sheet films. The difference is well within the tolerance in the ANSI spec for film plane position in any size film holder from 2x3 up to 8x10. Given I have mostly old wooden holders in 4x5, I'd be overjoyed to learn they had less than .002" difference between the closest and furthest.

    I wouldn't worry in the least about the change in focal plane for using paper, as long as you use RC -- and RC is what I'd use anyway, because a) it's cheaper than FB, b) it's much easier to process, with much less washing needed, and c) it's more translucent and has less texture than FB, so will make better contact prints. Not to mention that d) RC paper can be put into an enlarger and makes perfectly fine enlarged prints.
     
  19. Jim Noel

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    I make paper negatives in the manner of LeGray, and others, for demo purposes in my classes.
    If you wish to make paper negatives in the manner of Gustave LeGray you will need to coat your own paper.
    In his time the high quality papers were very thin, like a good quality stationery paper today. They were sized with gelatin.
    It will be necessary to coat with a light sensitive solution dried and then exposed. After processing the back side of the paper will need to be coated with a high quality wax such as beeswax or carnauba. If you happen to have a stick of Dorland's Print Wax left, as I do, it is ideal.

    As for the light sensitive solution, you might begin with a mixture such as that used for kallitype, 15% Silver nitrate and ferric oxalate. Some people currently are using commercially produced liquid emulsions which will be faster, but not as authentic.

    I hope this helps. I do have a book on the subject but it is out on loan at the moment and so I am unable to give you its title or author since these things tend to slip my mind.

    Hope this helps.
    Jim
     
  20. Photo Engineer

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    Donald, I agree with you, however, I notice a defninite difference in sharpness when I use a 4x5 holder vs a polaroid holder. I use my own coatings though and they are on 100# art paper, so that might make a difference. The exposures I've made on production paper were on MG IV RC, and were much sharper, but then the paper was thinner and had a baryta layer which improves sharpness. So, just consider my post a precautionary note that may or may not be important depending on paper thickness.

    And, the difficulties of coating on paper thinner than 100#, if FB are very great compared with thicker FB or any weight RC paper.

    PE
     
  21. df cardwell

    df cardwell Subscriber

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    I thought so !

    In my 'archives' I just found a lecture prepared by Dr. E.P. Wightman, F.R.P.S
    for the Camera Club Photographic Service, Eastman Kodak Co., 1941.

    I will scan it later tonight and post it.

    He seemed to like to use Eastman Translite Enlarging Paper, then print on AZO G.

    PE ?

    .
     
  22. Photo Engineer

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    DF;

    I have no idea what that means.

    I was a member of the CC at EK, and even gave classes there. I had an associate named Wightman as well, who made emulsions, but I never heard of this particular person or paper. I look forward to reading the paper.

    PE
     
  23. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    Sounds like the real issues are hand coating and the materials available for that process vs. commercial paper, then. You're right, the Polaroid (500, 545, 545i) holders are designed for the thickness of the complete packet, and would be out the other direction if you used them with straight sheet film. FWIW, I wouldn't expect 100# paper stock to be much if any thicker than the RC I quoted above; I've got some 140# watercolor paper here that's well under .015".

    However -- flatness may be another issue, or you might be adding significant thickness of the coating. It'd be interesting to see what you get with a baryta coated paper...
     
  24. Photo Engineer

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    Donald;

    I'm working on a vacuum hold down plate for coating thin paper and film.

    It will have a heat/cool surface and will eliminate most of the problems coating on any material that can be held by the vacuum. Right now, hand coating is not a problem with the blades I use, at least on paper and film. It is just that it is more difficult on paper if the weight goes below 100#. This is due to the expansion of paper as it becomes wet.

    Imagine trying to coat on wet paper towels.

    In the case of very thin paper or film, unless you have a vacuum hold down, it is best to coat with a brush. And, if you do that, you cannot get production quality.

    PE
     
  25. Karel Van den Fontey

    Karel Van den Fontey Member

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    Use of Le Grey process

    I use the process of Le Grey since it delivers a fairly fast negative.
    I build a camera with a lens f8 to f11 and can make a good negative in 6 to 8 seconds. Compared to the process of Fox Talbot this is fast.

    The main problems are the sears for good paper, the search for raw chemicals and the required expertise to work with this process:
    * The paper is critical. You need a 80 to 100 gr paper, no watermark, fine textured, possible to work in wet conditions with the paper.
    * The raw chemicals can be found, I found some sourses but it took some time.
    * You need a good instrument to check weight and mixture. Some chemicals are expensive and you need for some chemicals 1 gr or less (if you prepare the solution in limited quantities).
    * Salting the paper can be done in advance, sensitising must be done the day you take the picture. Plan our work in advance. JJust taking a picture is not possible with this process.
    * After taking the picture and developping/fixing the material, the paper must be waxed. I use bee-wax (white) and an oven of 60-70 °C.
    * The final result is a thin waxed paper negative, breakable but with a beatiful density and tone. One can use salted paper as a printing medium.

    I
     
  26. Rick A

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    I sometimes shoot paper negatives. I use graded RC paper, when developed I strip the emulsion surface from the backer paper. I then stretch the emulsion on glass using oil, and sandwich with another glass. I mask the glass sandwich for 4x5 (my camera format) and enlarge. Enlarging times are slow, but I can get some decent prints.