What is Sally Mann doing in "What Remains" documentary, at around 13:15?

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by Denis P., Oct 8, 2009.

  1. Denis P.

    Denis P. Member

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    Since I'm self-taught in photography (and particular in darkroom work), I find it fascinating when I'm able to see what (and how) other people work.

    I've seen the online version of "What Remains" documentary on Sally Mann, as linked here, and some time around 13:15 (that's thirteen minutes and fifteen seconds) into the documentary, there's a sequence showing her mixing some goo in a plastic bucket (using funny-looking gloves), pouring it on a print, coating the print with it, etc...

    What's she doing there, exactly? What kind of process is that?
    Thanks for any explanations...
     
  2. zinnanti

    zinnanti Member

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    She appears to be toning the print.
     
  3. Jeff Kubach

    Jeff Kubach Member

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    Looks like she is toning print too me also.

    Jeff
     
  4. Greg Davis

    Greg Davis Subscriber

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    It's varnish.
     
  5. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    Sandarac varnish to be precise. It has lavender oil in it. Smells great when you varnish. Varnishing is the final step in the wet plate collodion process. Its used on tintypes, ambrotypes and glass plate negatives.
     
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  6. Denis P.

    Denis P. Member

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    That's interesting, but she's not coating/varnishing a wet plate negative. That's a paper print she's coating in that video... and a rather big one - at least one meter across the longer side, if not bigger.

    But, I do admit that my knowledge of darkroom procedures and processes is rather basic. That's why I'm asking - what she's doing there is a complete mystery to me. Toning? The toners I've seen and used so far are more or less liquid. She's using something more like molasses - the substance is almost waxy :smile:

    Varnishing is quite possible, judging from the consistency of the substance. But, I've never heard of varninghing a (paper) print. Toning - yes; but varnishing?

    Could anyone provide some insight into the purpose of this procedure (on paper prints)?
     
  7. keithwms

    keithwms Member

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    People do varnish fiber prints. Fiber tones very well (quite differently from most RC papers) but will not produce the deepest blacks due to the diffuse reflection from the surface. So one solution is to apply varnish to the final print.

    One well known varnisher of fiber prints was Paul Strand; here is a quote from this link:

     
  8. Denis P.

    Denis P. Member

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    Thanks for the explanation, Keith.

    I still have a lot to learn :smile:
     
  9. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    Sorry, I haven't seen the video in years. I was under the impression that most of her series "What Remains" was shot using the wet plate collodion process.
     
  10. Uhner

    Uhner Member

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    She coats transparent glass plates and print them on what appears to be normal photographic paper.
     
  11. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    Someone mentioned that her exhibit included huge inkjet prints from scans of her ambrotypes/tintypes. I haven't attended one of her exhibits so I can't say for sure. But I do see some of her prints labeled silver gel and varnish so it very well could be glass plate negatives were used or digital negatives from scans of her plates.
     
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  12. Uhner

    Uhner Member

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    Most of the prints in her exhibit “What remains” are huge. In one segment of the documentary she uses a rather large enlarger and appears to be printing from glass plates.

    Well, it gives me a reason to look at the film again.
     
  13. Greg Davis

    Greg Davis Subscriber

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    She doesn't do any digital processing. She uses an 8x10 wet plate camera to shoot collodion glass plates and then an 8x10 enlarger to make very large prints on Ilford paper, which she varnishes and frames.
     
  14. DaveOttawa

    DaveOttawa Member

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    ...then you might enjoy watching a short segment in the BBC "Genius of Photography" doc, last of the series, showing her working with the collodion process, you should be able to find it on youtube I expect.
     
  15. Denis P.

    Denis P. Member

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    Thanks a lot, Dave, for reminding me :smile:

    Off to Youtube...
     
  16. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    In the movie you can see her dodging a portion of a large print using her arm as a dodging tool. That particular image was from a collodion glass negative. Early in the documentary she is shooting with an 8x10 and film. I believe that the up close portraits of her children's faces that were displayed as part of the What Remains show were actually 11x14 glass plate negatives contact printed.
     
  17. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    Thanks guys, I stand corrected. Sorry I brought up the D word.
     
  18. Louis Nargi

    Louis Nargi Member

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    Sorry I missed this one I'll watch it later