R.Gibson and Rodinal

Discussion in 'Photographers' started by Mustafa Umut Sarac, Sep 28, 2011.

  1. Mustafa Umut Sarac

    Mustafa Umut Sarac Member

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    I visited Ralph Gibson's website and looked to the archive. His 60s 70s pictures are great and have pure whites , pure blacks and pure grain at dark greys.
    When it comes to recent times , this is somehow lost.

    What was the older days Rodinal development technique , dilution , chemistry of him ? What was the used film ? Printing lens , paper and developer.

    Thank you ,

    Umut
     
  2. artonpaper

    artonpaper Subscriber

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    My understanding was that he shot with a Leica, Tri-X, Rodinol, printed on Agfa Brovira Grade 6 (which they later started calling grade 5, but it was the same emulsion), and printed on Leitz enlargers with Leitz optics. I don't know his Rodinol dilution. I used to use it at 1:31, I'm thinking, in order that he not give himself too big a task with that very high contrast paper, he went with 1:50. At least this was what we talked about about after classes at SVA in whatever bar it was that was around the corner on 3rd Avenue, in 1978.
     
  3. mablo

    mablo Member

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    In one book (name forgotten at the moment) from the -70's he describes his development recipe for Tri-x. Note that today's Tri-x is necessarily not the same. Anyway, here goes: Tri-x @ 200 for 11 mins in Rodinal 1:25. 30sec initial agitation and 10sec in each 1,5 minutes. He might have changed the recipe later on but this is what is written on the book.
     
  4. Michael W

    Michael W Member

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    I think that info is from the original Lustrum Press 'Darkroom' book (Lustrum being Ralph Gibson's publishing house of course). Essentially he would overexpose and overdevelop the film, then print high contrast. It's a very good book as are several others in that series by Lustrum.
     
  5. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    The most common misconception is that simply overexposing and overdeveloping Tri-X in Rodinal would give the Ralph Gibson look. As always, it's about the printing stage and those people who are simply scanning just can't wrap their heads around it. He printed on the hardest grade Brovira and that doesn't exists anymore. Adox MCC110 would get you close, and so will the new Oriental Seagull. He also exposed differently, as he exposed for highlights, not concerned about shadow detail.
     
  6. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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  7. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Amen to that. The idea of processing negatives a certain way is to lay the groundwork for the darkroom work, to provide a platform to work from. The real magic happens at the printing stage, and that is the truth.
    To find a way to match the negatives to the capabilities of the printing paper (paper and paper developer combination) is the key to eking the quality out of the whole process that you want.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 29, 2011
  8. steven_e007

    steven_e007 Member

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    There are a few photographers such as Gibson, Weegee, Mortensen et all, who seem to have wacky technique. Whenever I look at their photos, though, I always think 'I could get a similar 'look' to that by doing X or Y'.... A similar look, maybe, but no way could I get within a mile of their photographs. I think their empirical route to the 'look' they wanted may be interesting, but I reckon it is the very easiest, least important, bit. Give Gibson a Hasselblad loadwd with XP2 and he'd still produce great pictures. Give me a Leica, Tri-X. Rodinal and Agfa Brovira grade 6 and you'd still get a pile of crap...
     
  9. Mike Crawford

    Mike Crawford Member

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    My Lustrum Darkroom book is at work, but from what I remember, he didn't just process in Rodinal for the sake of it, but applied agitation depending on how he felt about the shots. ie for more contrast, grain and accutance, a bit more vigorous shaking was applied. However, as Steven above suggests, following another photographer's formula will not give the same results. Ralph Gibson's work has that intensity because he learnt what his camera, film, papers and developers could do. For me that's a very inspirational credo. Now where is that roll of Tri X?
     
  10. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    Yeah. It's a darned shame. The only thing I'm missing is the Agfa Brovira.

    But I got plenty of the crap. Let me know if you need some. I have enough to share.
     
  11. semi-ambivalent

    semi-ambivalent Subscriber

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    I've always thought that about Michael Kenna's work, the "X plus Y and, bingo'. When I was shooting in the past (70s) I intentionally avoided looking at the work of other photographers as much as possible for fear that I would simply copy them. Or try to. There was so much great and different stuff out there, especially from Japan. It was alluring, if not genuinely mine.

    What eventually became what I called my 'style' I owed as much to my not knowing what the hell I was doing as to any pompous magical vision I thought I was on to. Trying to find some sort of 'look' again and this many years later it's pointless to look at the old developing and printing notes and think I can just whip up some duplicates. It's all new, and ready for fresh mistakes.

    s-a
     
  12. M. Lointain

    M. Lointain Member

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    You are definitely on to something semi-ambivalent. I think the bland nature of photography today is a result of the lack of isolation. One can see everything by everybody and it influences the images one makes. When I started photography I didn't know anyone that did it. There was no internet. Books were few and far in between. The result was that I made horrible negatives. The upside though is that it made me a good printer. I learned everything by trial and error. There is something to be said for that. Once I learned it all though I realized that I needed to forget it too.

    From what I can recall about Gibson's methods of developing, and they aren't a magic bullet, he mixes Rodinal in the tank and he uses a specific amount of Rodinal for each roll of film. I do recall a comment he made that he likes a meaty negative. This is evidenced in his prints.

    I have seen quite a few of these threads over the years. Gibson gets the look he does by many factors, not just the development of the film. He chooses the light that he likes which no one talks about. He also exposes for the highlights which dumps the shadows into solid black in a print. That is the opposite of the holy grail of rules for photography. Just go to show that rules are for those with no imagination.
     
  13. Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    Says who?
     
  14. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

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    The one thing many photographers have a hard time understanding (or simply ignore), is that an image starts in the mind. Vision, creativity and inspiration start with our eyes and mind, with the process simply delivering the goods. Gibson's images are always stark, high contrast, deep blacks/strong whites, because that's how he sees. He photographs situations in light that reflects his vision of things. It's not Tri-X + Rodinal delivering those images, or Agfa paper. He could have done the same using HP5 + DDX...it doesn't matter, because it would still be Ralph Gibson.
    The only advantage of mastering a process, any process, being one film + 1 developer for the rest of your life, in camera metering, zone system, BTZS, etc, is the indisputable fact that from that moment on, one need only to concern him/herself with nurturing the creative aspect, vision, learning to see, being more receptive, etc. Process is not there to get in the way but only to facilitate the delivery of a good print. So, for anyone interested in exploring the Ralph Gibson's look, by no means get some Tri-X + Rodinal and experiment with it for a year. Print on some hard grade paper and see if you like the look. At the end of the day though, it will be the images that count because a crappy photograph that is developed/printed cookbook Ralph Gibson style, will still be a crappy photograph...which, by the way, applies to Ralph Gibson himself, as not all of his photographs are masterpieces.
     
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  15. semi-ambivalent

    semi-ambivalent Subscriber

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  16. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

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    I agree with the above sentiments. Anyone can point you in a direction, but you still have to walk there by yourself so to speak. And maybe Gibson started out his journey with normal negatives and then found his own way towards the overexposed, overdeveloped negatives on hard grade paper. I have a lot of overdeveloped and overexposed negatives, but for my life of me, I can't get them to work for me, because my whole process is geared towards something else, even if I really love Gibsons photographs. And that, I feel is a major point; it is a complete process, not a certain film or paper. And as it is a complete loop of things, there's always a way to calibrate that process with another paper or film, given you have the stamina to see it through.
     
  17. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    It appears to me the point overlooked is the paper grade printed on. G-6(or 5) will render pure blacks crisp whites and whatever grays are left will appear somewhat grainy from a 35mm negative enlarged to 8x10. The shift from that look could be attributed to either nonexistance of the paper grade or the artist deliberatly changing his ideals for a softer look(most likely both). In my younger days, I loved hard contrast, it mimiced my life. Now that I am much older and mellower, I can appreciate the softer feel of a print that includes a fuller compliment of tones. Plus my shooting style has changed as I learned to expose properly(read-I slowed down and consider exposure as much as composition).
     
  18. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    Albert Einstein said: "It's all in the mind".

    Ideas, vision, and channeling them into prints. There's a lot of things going on before the negative is even exposed, let alone developed, and ultimately printed. All those ideas of what the pictures should look like are infinitely more important than any material. As you say, it's about finding something that stops being an obstacle in the creative process, that makes it easy for the ideas to materialize.
    I like how clearly you think, and how good you are at eliminating BS, Massimo.

    - T
     
  19. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I take the liberty of making a quote, which speaks about getting to what's important. Simplicity is elegance. Simplicity fosters creativity; if we're forced to stop amassing wealth of materials, all we're left with is ideas.

    "The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak".

    - Hans Hofmann
     
  20. JerryWo

    JerryWo Member

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    I'm a new "old" photographer, having jumped back into the analog fray after 30+ years. I shot some Fomapan 400 (EI 200) and used Rodinal and, at least as far as the negative is concerned, I got that very grainy, sharp "look". This thread prompted me to look at Gibson's website. I had never seen his stuff before. My wife loves it - she loves the strong contrast. Having just recently gone in the other direction (using Perceptol and FP4 at EI 50), I find myself both put off by, and loving the grain and contrast of Gibson's prints. I plowed through his prints on the website - I think he's an artistic genius.

    So, I've loaded some tri-X in my old Nikormatt and will play with that.

    I love APUG and the educational and inspirational threads like these.
    Thanks!
    Jerry
    Warrenton. VA
     
  21. semi-ambivalent

    semi-ambivalent Subscriber

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    Thomas,

    Didn't he write "The Salzburg Jedermann"? I have a quote from that somewhere that impressed me even as a teenager.

    Sorry, back on topic.

    s-a
     
  22. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Hofmann

    A very interesting character. Painter.