Josef Sudek's Processes and Materials

Discussion in 'Photographers' started by jmooney, Mar 26, 2010.

  1. jmooney

    jmooney Member

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    Hi All,

    I've recently discovered Sudek and I'm trying to learn more about him and how he worked. Does anyone know what materials and chemistry he used? I know he switched to contact printing in 1940, any insights into other processes he used?

    I'm smitten with his images so he could have printed on a dinner plate using mouse droppings and I'd still want to see it but I'm always interested in learning about these things for some historical perspective.

    Jim
     
  2. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Jim,

    In addition to contact printing with silver Sudek also made a lot of prints with carbro, which is a method of making pigmented prints. Carbro is similar to carbon transfer in terms of the final print but a different method is used to make the print.

    Carbro was the process used to make high quality color prints from the 1930s to early 1950s. You can find a brief description of the process at http://www.flickr.com/groups/carbro/.

    Sudek used the carbro process to make monochrome prints, not color, though many of his prints were made with a carbon tissue that has a very warm brown color.

    Sandy King
     
  3. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    There were a couple of videos following him around as he photographed Prague, but they seem to have been removed from MySpace. Don't remember if they contained any darkroom images. Maybe others would know of their availability.
     
  4. PVia

    PVia Member

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    I've read that he would scrounge around for paper from other photographers and had a hoard of it he would print from. Sometimes the beauty is in old materials...
     
  5. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Glad that one more person has discovered his work! Good luck in your quest for info. I don't know much myself, as far as all the technical details are concerned, but I heard about him from a teacher soon after I started in photography, and have always liked what I have seen, so I am interested to read this thread.
     
  6. sanking

    sanking Member

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    That does not surprise me. I have a book of his carbro prints and it looks to me that many of them were made from carbon tissue that was pretty old. As carbon tissue ages the gelatin slowly becomes slightly insoluble, which at first creates a slight veil in the highlights, and eventually a very dark fogging that ruins the image. Many of Sudek's carbro prints in the book I have show signs of highlight veiling and other process artifcacts that one would expect from tissue that was somewhat aged.


    Sandy King
     
  7. jmooney

    jmooney Member

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    Sandy,

    What's the title of the book you're talking about?

    Thanks,

    Jim
     
  8. sanking

    sanking Member

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    The title is Joseph Sudek: Pigment Prints, published by Salander O'Reilley Galeries in New York. It is a cataogue that accompanied an exhibition of Sudek's work held at the Galeries in 19 98. There is no ISBN number.

    The book contains essays a number of essays about Sudek's work, and plates of sixty pigment prints from the artist's estate.

    I heard about the exhibition and called the gallery to get a copy of the catologue, shamelessly identifying myself as a potential collector of Sudek's work. That probably would not have worked but knew more about the process than the person I was talking to so he gave some credence to my claim to be a collector.

    I have never see any of these prints reproduced elsewhere and would like toi scan and post some of them here but it probably would not be legal to do so.

    Sandy King
     
  9. Richard Wasserman

    Richard Wasserman Member

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    I have this book and it's really quite lovely. He was a remarkable photographer.
     
  10. DarkroomDan

    DarkroomDan Subscriber

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    I also have the Joseph Sudek: Pigment Prints but the other book I have of his, Sudek Sonja Bullaty, published by Clarkson N. Potter, Inc, New York, 1978 is my favorite. It shows a wider range of his work including early work starting in the 1920's. Some of his earliest work was done in soft focus pictorialist style. Nearly all of the Pigment Prints work date from the 1950's with some negatives from the 40's.

    Dan
     
  11. gandolfi

    gandolfi Member

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    I have a "lot" of his books - he is one of my all time favourites!

    I also have had the ecperience to see many of his print in person (I have been in Prague about 25 times and sometimes there is Sudek on display.. one was (as I remember) for his 100 year birth, and the exhibition was immense!!)

    I met a collector there as well - he had Sudek/Saudek/Drtikol pictures on his walls (for sale!!) and to top that, he also had a lot of the original glass negatives in a vault... Fascinating.

    I have always wondered why Prague doen't have a museum of photography.. Whit all those masters that contry has fostered...

    If I were a billionaire, I'd build one!!
     
  12. Lukas_87

    Lukas_87 Member

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    ah, Josef Sudek... nice to hear you americans talk this way about somebody from my country :smile:

    there's a formula of one of his own film developer from an authorised manuscript:

    part A:
    Metol - 1,9 g
    Sodium bisulfite (sodium hydrogen sulfite) - 1,9 g
    Catechol (Pyrocatechin) - 7,5 g
    Potassium bromide - 1,0 g
    water to make 250 ml

    part B:
    Sodium sulfite (cryst.) - 75,0 g
    water to make 250 ml

    part C:
    Sodium carbonate (anhydrous) - 15 g
    water to make 250 ml

    for use dilute parts 3+3+3+40 (A+B+C+water)
    standard developing time 11,5 min / 20 °C

    i have also found another formula he used:

    Catechol (Pyrocatechin) - 0,5 g
    Sodium sulfite (anhydrous) - 1,0 g
    Sodium carbonate - 2,5 g
    water to make 250 ml
    developing time: 8 min / 18 °C
     
  13. gandolfi

    gandolfi Member

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    I'm hardly an american....

    But still a huge fan of Sudek.
     
  14. jmooney

    jmooney Member

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    Thanks for posting this! I'm 1/4 Slovak so I have roots from around that way as well. One of many things that drew me to learn more about Sudek.
     
  15. Schlapp

    Schlapp Member

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    Is this carbo process similar to Misonne's Mediobrome?
     
  16. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Not really. Mediobrome is more similar to bromoil than to carbro. With mediobrome you have quite a bit of control over the tones of the image. Carbro is like silver in that once you finish the dodging and burning the the image develops rather automatically.

    In fact, there more control of image density with carbon than carbro.

    Sandy King
     
  17. gr82bart

    gr82bart Subscriber

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    Posted wirelessly.. (Art's iPhone)

    I'm pretty sure I ain't European or American either, but I love Sudek too. I have two of hi sbooks and a print. I picked these up when I travelled to Prague a few times. A gorgeous city.
     
  18. PVia

    PVia Member

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    Tell me about Sudek's pigment prints...what exactly are these? Gums?

    I've heard about this book as well, and it seems to be very expensive on the used market, but everyone raves about it.
     
  19. hughitb

    hughitb Member

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    Those interested in Sudek may also be interested in John Banville's book "Prague Pictures: Portraits of a City". It's a kind of personalised travelogue about Prague based on Banville's many visits there. One of Banville's fascinations with Prague is Sudek, and a fair bit of the book deals with the photographer and his work.
     
  20. sanking

    sanking Member

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    I think it has already been mentioned that he printed in carbro, in addition to silver. Carbro is a form of pigment printing that gives a photography look, in comparison to the painterly look usually seen with gum.

    Sandy King
     
  21. PVia

    PVia Member

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    I'm actually finding two different books...Pigment Prints from the Artist's Estate and Pigment Prints 1947 - 1954...are these the same books essentially, just different editions?
     
  22. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Might be two different books. The book I mentioned has the title Josef Sudek: Pigment Prints, on the cover, and Joseph Sudek (1896-1976): Sixty Pigment Prints from the Artist's Estate, on the title page.

    Sandy King
     
  23. sionnac

    sionnac Subscriber

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    Sudek is one of my favorite photographers. Love his images of Prague - the panoramas - and his studio work is marvelous. I will buy Pigment Prints someday.
     
  24. JNaetke

    JNaetke Member

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    there is an actual, quite lengthy documentary on him I have on vhs, that I wanted to watch soon...
    I don't have its title available right now, but I will update you once I have it and on the processes/methods explained in the movie later on.
     
  25. jmooney

    jmooney Member

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    I'd love to have the title when you get a chance so I can start scouring the web for it.

    Thanks,

    Jim