When did selenium become popular

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by miha, Sep 2, 2012.

  1. miha

    miha Member

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    Selenium is hardly mentioned in various 'modern' darkroom books (from 60s-80s) I learned the craft from many years ago. Reading various forums online, selenium seems a must nowadays, a step that shouldn't be omited if one is serious about their processing. When I started printing, about 20 years ago, toning was considered a non essential step which can be applied to alter tones of prints. Nothing more.

    When did selenium toning become popular?
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Selenium toning became fairly standard for archival processing more than 20 years ago but only became more common by the 1980's. This co-incided with a revival in FB papers after there'd been a big switch to RC B&W papers and growing concewrns with archival processing.

    Ian
     
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  3. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    We were using it in the mid-70's, in college. Not just for prints, but for negative intensification, too.
     
  4. lensman_nh

    lensman_nh Member

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    I was very aware of it in the 80's and it seemed to have been around for a while.

    It is covered in all the darkroom books I have kept from that period.
     
  5. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    1911 edition of Encyclopedia of Photography lists Selenium as a component of Phototelegraphy. Selenium is not mentioned in the Toning section.
     
  6. miha

    miha Member

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    I always thought it was only common in the States in the pre-internet days. After all, it was only Kodak who produced it commercially till very recently, and it was Ansel Adams who promoted it the most. I found very little reference to Selenium in European books (or maybe I read the wrong ones :tongue:).
     
  7. miha

    miha Member

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    Hear, hear! :smile:
     
  8. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    Selenium toning is mentioned in books from the 1940s. Ansel Adams' Basic Photo 3, The Print (1950), recommends Kodak Rapid Selenium Toner. These books speak of the change in tone, but not the extended print life.
     
  9. Steve Toner

    Steve Toner Member

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    Toning with selenium is an old method of getting various shades of sepia.
    Wall and Jordan, Photographic Facts and Formulas, 1940
     
  10. miha

    miha Member

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    Thanks Jim. So it seems it was not until its archival properties were recognised that it became worldwide popular (as pointed out by Ian). I wonder why Agfa and (old) Ilford never promoted its use?
     
  11. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    It was the establishment of the first art photography degree course in the UK at Trent Polytechic Deby/Nottingham and the workshop movement of the late 1970's and 80's spear headed by Paul Hill and later Peter Goldfield that resurrected the art side of photography in the UK.

    Both these involved the same circle of photographers who themselves had links with the US workshop circle including Minor White & Paul Cpenegro. An article in Ten8 magazine, "Where the Wild things went" discussed the British disciples of Minor White, most were photography lecturers many heads of department at the time or later and that included John Blakemore, Paul Hill, John Davies, Thomas Joshua Cooper etc all still working today.

    So yes in the UK at least the practice came from the US and in many cases those same photographers lead workshops in Northern Europe as well.

    Ian
     
  12. miha

    miha Member

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    Thanks Ian for your comprehensive answer!

    p.s. Would you consider selenium toning (or any other toning) to be an essential step in the process of print making?
     
  13. miha

    miha Member

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    Interesting, thanks. But not a standard processing step it seems.
     
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  15. David Allen

    David Allen Member

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    Many photographers in the UK learnt of the benefits of using Selenium toner through the books of Ansel Adams, Minor White and Fred Picker. Many also learnt about Selenium toning through attending my father's workshops (started in 1972, this was the first independent photography school to offer photographic courses in the UK that were entirely independent of any official educational sources. Although the courses covered a wide range of subjects, anyone learning about printing or learning his Zone VIII system - designed to apply the techniques of the Zone system to roll film as well as large format - would have been familiar with the range of benefits of Selenium toning plus how it could also be used to intensify negatives, etc).

    For many other progressive photographers, the interest in Selenium toning was generated by seeing actual prints by established American photographers (rather than reproductions) during The Land: 20th Century Landscape Photographs exhibition (1975) at the V&A selected by Bill Brandt. This included a strong showing of American work by Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Brett Weston, Minor White, Aaron Siskind, Harry Callahan, Eliot Porter and Paul Caponigro - most of whom were using Selenium toning to achieve either colour shifts or increase Dmax.

    The case for Selenium's archival qualities was fully made in George Eaton's influential Conservation of Photographs (Eastman Kodak) paper from 1985 and thereafter Selenium toning was included in all variations of archival processing technique.

    Best,

    David
    www.dsallen.de
     
  16. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Not necessarily essential but best practice, selenium does help with archival permanence [articularly of FB pares, it's not need with negatives.

    Ian
     
  17. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Me too.. all prints from 1973 when I started till today get a selenium tone treatment.

     
  18. miha

    miha Member

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    David, don't you think that this is too strong of a statement? I might be wrong, but having seen "The Family of Man" exhibition in Clervaux, the last thing I wondered about was the printing technique the masters or their printers used (although, many photos seemed to be reproductions only). But then again, you might be as well right as The Land was about landscape photography where tonality and Dmax matter.

    Thanks for this interesting bit of history.
     
  19. miha

    miha Member

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    Bob, what was the initial reason?
    When I started in 1991 or so, Se was optional, now it seem a must for the job.
     
  20. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Very simple- my instructors told me it was good, so I listened.

    Eventually I learned that selenium basically attaches itself to the silver, therefore more action in the shadows.
    I use a strong selenium 1:5 with different short times.
    Now I use sepia for the highlights and selenium for the shadows. According to Tim Rudman this is a very archival method of toning prints, and it looks very beautiful.
    Tri toning with sepia, gold then selenium adds a pop to prints and colour that I find very appealing.

    Selenium is not required, just a aesthetic step that many of us use , and we all use it differently.
    I have a silver print hanging in my darkroom that I gave too my father when I graduated from photo school.
    It was on Kodak Ektalure and heavily selenium toned and it still looks great.

    there are chemists here who can speak to the archival aspects of selenium but I use it mostly for the look.
     
  21. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

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    Same reason for me. My professors not only stressed the tonal aspect, but the archival properties, too.
     
  22. miha

    miha Member

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    Thanks Bob - it looks more and more that selenium treatment became practice in the US (and Canada obviously) already many decades ago.

    I also use strong Se to bring some life to my favourite paper (Ilford MG FB Matt).
     
  23. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    I used Selenium toners in the 1970's but I made them up from scratch, usually IT-3 an Ilford Selenium Sulphide toner however this gives quite a strong reddish brown tone so very different to KRST.

    It was some time before I saw Kodak KRST in the UK - I'd guess in the 1980's but then my nearest trade supplier was an Ilford dealer and few people I knew used Kodak materials. We bought Kodak or Fuji colour films through the pro-labs we used but they didn't sell anything other than colour film (of all formats).

    Ian
     
  24. David Allen

    David Allen Member

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    Hi Miha,

    if anything what I wrote could be an understatement. I do not think that anyone who did not attend this exhibition (I was at the time 14) can understand what a revelation it was. It was, of course, the overall impact of the body of photographs, but the prints from Adams and Brett Weston were such a mind blowing thing to see that everything that I had learnt just flew out of the window.

    For the first time I understood what fine art printing meant. This, and the photo magazine Creative Camera, were the opening of the world for UK photographers who, like myself, hated the club scene and longed for photography to be much more than what judges wanting in 'print battles'.

    It changed my life - can I say more?

    Best,

    David
    www.dsallen.de
     
  25. miha

    miha Member

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    Hi David, I can imagine the impact of the show but fail to see the role of selenium. Toning represent but one step of a complex process of fine art printing.
     
  26. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Most of the important art photographers (UK) beginning that era cite the exhibition as being a key factor in the way photography changed in the UK. It was the first large scale exhibition of phography as an art to be seen here after WWII. Dire shortages of materials as well as equipment during and after the war had changed the way people percieved photography and the art traditions had been lost. We forget that rationing in the UK was more severe after the war as we had to send food to help feed Europe and particularly Germany, import restrictions on cameras were in force into the 1950's and the taxes on luxury goods like camera were still high until the introduction of VAT in the 1970's.

    The reality was that it was a number of factors coming together in the aerly 1970's that resurrected photography as an art in the UK and with that came the tradition of the fine print. It's also fogotten that in the UK FB papers almost died out with the introduction of Ilfospeed, Ilford had dropped their warm tone paper Ilfomar, they'd stopped selling ID-78 their WT developer.

    It was the introduction of the first premium B&W paper Galerie that tipped the blance, new importers sprang up, Peter Goldfield importing Agfa materials after they'd pulled out of the consumer B&W market, spawning Silverprint when Peter closed.

    Ian