A few questions about Amidol which I'm about to try for the first time with Azo among other papers.
1- Do Amidol processed prints need different exposure than Dektol prints?
2- Does it change (Azo) paper color/tone? To what?
3- What is the difference between Fein's and Michael A Smith? formulae - in terms of cool/warm/color to the paper?
4- How's Amidol for papers other than Azo. Is it worth swtching to?
5- What exactly does extra time in it do (ie, 3-5 mins as opposed to 1-2)?
6- Lastly, how "better" is Amidol anyway? Are we talking about a 10% improvement? 50% - 100%?
I've got my breathing mask, gloves, long sleeves and fans all at the ready for this nasty - but highly touted - chemical.
Thanks for your assistance.
Why dont you check out Ed Buffaloe's site unblinkingeye, there is a link in our home page. He has a very thorough article about Amidol and Azo.
As to some of your questions, silver bromide papers (enlarging paper) are usually very fast and do not depend on the developer for speed, so you would probably would have very similar exposures as those with Dektol. The color of the paper does have to do with both the type of paper and developer used. Amidol generally turns out very nice neutral colors with enlarging paper, azo comes out a little bit greenish but a dilute bath of selenium takes care of that.
Switiching to Amidol for enlarging paper is a matter of choice, some people think it improves their prints, some dont. This is something you will have to decide.
As with any developer the longer you leave the print in the bath it changes the tonal relatinonship, this is best described in AA book the print.
Last is hard to tell you your prints will improve 10, 20 or 50%. It all has to do with your printing style, etc, etc.
My personal opinion is that Azo is a very good paper if you like the silver look. I dont think is the magic bullet some people claim it to be the same way that pt/pd is not the magic process that will make all your prints look great. If you are an experienced printer then try it, if you are just starting I would recommend to pick a developer and stick with it until you know it very well and can make the prints you wish with it.
Amidol is used in various hair coloring formulations. You should wear gloves when you use it, but it isn't any more toxic than most other photographic chemicals.
Since Jorge referred you to the unblinkingeye.com, where there is one article about Azo and Amidol, I will refer you to the Azo section at michaelandpaula.com where there are four articles about Azo and there is also the Azo Forum, where there are many lengthy discussions about these things. Two of the articles are by the fellow who wrote the article at unblinkingeye.com and two are by me. I suggest you go there for much more information about this than you will find anywhere else on the planet. In any case, I will anwer your questions here. (At the moment there is a glitch in the Azo Forum and new topics cannot be added.)
1- Do Amidol processed prints need different exposure than Dektol prints? Probably. Any change of developer will require a change of exposure.
2- Does it change (Azo) paper color/tone? To what? No it does not change the color of the paper. It is what it is -- a neutral black, slightly green, as Jorge described.
3- What is the difference between Fein's and Michael A Smith? formulae - in terms of cool/warm/color to the paper? I do not know Fein's formula. Let me know in an off-line email and I will tell you (by posting here) what the difference will be. My next article in View Camera magazine is about the chemicals in developers and how each one affects the print--including how it affects the color.
4- How's Amidol for papers other than Azo. Is it worth swtching to? In my opinion, yes. Amidol gives deeper blacks than other developers. In my article, "On Printing," which first appeared in View Camera magazine, and which can also be found under "Azo" at www.michaelandpaula.com, I gave the formula for Amidol when it is to be used with enlarging paper. It is a different formula than that which is used with contact printing papers--meaning Azo--the last one still being made.
5- What exactly does extra time in it do (ie, 3-5 mins as opposed to 1-2). For Azo, increasing the time does no good at all. One minute should always be maximum. The best developing times for enlarging paper are a function of the paper and not the developer. Every paper has an optimum developing time. The last enlarging paper I used extensively, Velour Black, had an optimum time of three minutes,
6- Lastly, how "better" is Amidol anyway? Are we talking about a 10% improvement? 50% - 100%? You cannot put a % on it like that. Amidol does yield the best tones--longer scale and deeper blacks. Especially when used with a water bath it gives more control over development. It is also easier to use than other developers.
"I've got my breathing mask, gloves, long sleeves and fans all at the ready for this nasty - but highly touted - chemical." No need to overdo it. Amidol is not that toxic--not nearly as toxic as metol or hydroquinone. Wearing a nitrile glove on your developing hand is the only precaution that is needed.
There are no magic bullets, but the Azo/Amidol combination comes as close as possible to one. That being said, this past weekend Paula and I conducted one of our Vision and Technique workshops. Some of the participants brought prints on Azo that were developed in Amidol. Virtually none of the prints were really fine prints, or even very good ones. Printing requires much more than having the right developer or the right paper, although if you have those other things, then having the right paper and the right developer can make a gigantic difference.
Do I know what I am talking about? Recently there was this exchange on another forum--on a mail-server list. The discussion was about ABC Pyro. One respondent wrote this:
"There have been some discussions lately about using ABC, exclusively, with
LF negatives for contact printing with Azo. I have seen Michael's and
Paula's work using these materials and their prints are simply the very
best on Planet Earth."
I replied, "> Well Curt, many thanks for your kind words about our prints. Paula
> and I certainly make prints that are among the finest
> being made today, but the "best on Planet Earth?" We don't know about
> that, but we will happily quote you nonetheless. (which I have done here).
He then answered, "Well, Michael, you're just too modest. By all objective and subjective standards, the prints you produce are absolutely as close to perfection as
humanly possible. You are a perfectionist and a master of the craft."
My advice in any field of endeavor is to listen to those who have actually done the work themselves. Too many on various forums have many things to say, some of which may be quite useful, but without their having the work to back it up, much of it is also unreliable.
Good luck with Amidol and Azo. I do not believe you will be disappointed.
BTW Daniel I forgot to mention, Bergger is also making contact printing paper. If you try it let us know what you think (I wish william would hurry up and give us his opinion). Another alternative is using printing out paper made by Kentmere Ltd. and sold by the Chicago Albumen works
Although they had some problems with coating they have been resolved and are now in full production. This is a wondeful paper and the range of tones and colors that can be acheived with this paper is far beyond anything you can get with Azo. This is my choice of papers when I wish to contact print in silver.
I tested the Bergger "contact printing" paper for them and found that it is not a contact printing paper at all. It is really an enlarging paper. It is NOT a silver chloride paper, which is what all gelatin silver contact printing papers are or were. Iodide is added to the Bergger paper. Iodide is found in films. Hence the Bergger paper is extremely fast. Although the Bergger paper can be a lovely paper I suggested that they not call it a contact prinitng paper since 1) it isn't and 2) the market for enlarging papers is far greater than the market for contact printing paper. All of the great prints by all of the great printers of the past who made contact prints, Weston, (Edward and Brett), Adams, Evans, are prints on silver chloride paper. Azo is the only paper made today that has the look of their great contact prints.
I have also used the POP paper distributed by the Chicago Albumen Works. If you have perfect negatives and like the reddish-brown color, their paper can be lovely. Personally, I like a neutral black and do not like the "old time" feel of the POP, but that is purely personal taste.
Too often prints on POP as well as prints on Platinum/Palladium are lifeless and dull. Those who make them think they are beautiful--just because they are on POP or Pt./Pd. But almost never does one see (do I see) a really rich POP or Pt/pd. print. Almost never. The Pt/Pd prints are usually weak with poor tonal separation and the POP prints are usually very flat. Perhaps it is the case the modern films just do not allow for the kind of negatives needed. Or maybe this is part of the reason: it is probably that those making these prints have developed their film in PMK. A developer that yields flatter, duller negatives I cannot imagine.
Sorry, jdef, but unfortunately Jorge and I seem to have gotten into this "thing." I have participated in many Internet forums over about 7 years and this is the first time anything like this has happened. I'm usually quite gracious, believe it or not.
I have seen many POP prints and know well Judith Joy Ross's photographs. While they are often quite lovely, they are almost never what I would call a "rich" print. And I have never seen one of hers without a slight purplish cast to it--hardly neutral black.
Regarding my comments about POP and Pt./Pd. When printed well, both POP and Pt/Pd prints can be among the finest the medium of photography is capable of. But as I said, "too often" (not always) they are dull and lifeless, but the photographers delude themselves into thinking they have great prints just because they are POP or Pl/Pd. I'm not criticizing the choice of materials. I am trying to wake people up to look honestly at their prints. Most don't see it. Should I just sit by and let them delude themselves? Stieglitz said it best, "If you place the imperfect next to the perfect, people will see the difference between the one and the other. But if you offer the imperfect alone, people are only too apt to be satisfied by it."
Since you know Judith Joy Ross's work, perhaps you live nearby. (She lives less than an hour from me.) I invite you, and anyone else reading this to visit me and Paula here at our home/studio and we will show you our prints. And happily look at yours as well if you would like us to do that. If anyone is interested, please respond off-forum.
You guys are amazing! Letís add up the number of fine art photographers in the US. Maybe a hundred. Now letís take into account if they make their living purely through fine art photography. Maybe a dozen or so. Ok, how many make their living contact printing on silver materials. Fits on one hand.
As far as I can tell Jorgeís remarks about POP and Bergger Ďcontact paperí were unsolicited, the poster was specifically questioning about AZO and Amidol. I think either of you must admit that Michael probably knows more about this subject than any of us combined. Why would you decide to split the thread? Jorge should really start to think a little bit about the responsibility of a moderator.
I am truly thankful that Michael is so active in these newsgroups and on his site. (most arenít). His experience and knowledge has been extremely helpful to me, without it I would be spending many hours and dollars experimenting just to find the results that I am now capable of. I donít discourage people from experimenting with different media, this is just an approach that I am not interested in.
Do I follow everything Michael says? No. I donít use straight ABC pyro. I donít use his amidol formula. I donít shoot the same type of subject matter that he shoots. His comments about AZO and other contact printing media are correct though. AZO has a scale just like other silver papers when developed in normal developers. When it is developed in Amidol, the scale becomes much wider. You can see some experimental data on this at the unblinkingeye site and on Michaelís site.
As far as art photography is concerned, I believe and I think just about everyone agrees there is more than one approach to photography. I have plenty of Salgado and Bresson books that knock my socks off. However, I am content to have their books. I would not buy one of their prints, because the book reproduction IMO contains most of the value of their image. Conversely, a reproduction of a fine print cannot capture the beauty of the print, and it must be viewed in person for their full effect. When people talk about contact printing with AZO and amidol they are most certainly pursuing the Ďfine printí that you deride.
</span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (avandesande @ Oct 16 2002, 08:28 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>As far as I can tell Jorgeís remarks about POP and Bergger Ďcontact paperí were unsolicited
Jorge should really start to think a little bit about the responsibility of a moderator.
It seems there is some confusion as to my role in this forum. As a moderator all I do it "try" to keep the reponses on topic (which by the way this one has gotten way off topic), delete double posts and make sure all responses are within a minimun "civil" standard (e.i. no cussing, insults etc).
As a member I beleive offering additional information on similar processes and alternative papers is a good thing. As I stated before Bergger is marketing his paper as "contact" paper and I thought it might be an alternative Mr. Grenier might want to explore. The POP paper is not widely known and it is also another "silver" contact paper thus my mentioning this alternative also. I beleive both fall within the context of amidol, azo and contact printing which is what this forum is about.
In the end once the responses started getting off topic I could have moved this thread to the "off topic" forum, but I hesitate to do so since the "opinons" expressed in some way are part of the discussion about the benefits and/or lack thereof of the amidol, azo combination.
So please lets get back to the question at hand if you wish to continue exchanging comments about your thoughts you are more than welcome to start another thread in the miscelaneous section.
Thank you all for the feedback - especially you Michael.
My purpose in asking questions of this sort is to simply save me a great deal of effort, time and expense which would inevitably result, should I not be so lucky as to have such generous feedback from experienced artists, in less than ideal prints.
After a 5+year period away from photography, I have recently shot a project on a 92 year old lady who lived on her own in the country (she has since died). She was supremely interesting and I've attempted to capture her and her environment on film (8x10 Tri-X processed in HC110... haven't tried Pyro yet). Now, my "struggle" is to find the right paper in the right developer to translate this project into b&w prints of (hopefully) some relevance.
Of course, as Michael said, there is far more to this than "just" papers and chemicals. Artistic flair is the prime ingredient here but the basic foundation must be there in the right paper processed in the right developer. I am well on the way to finding the right combination for this project due, in part, to valued assistance found here. As for Artistic flair ???? Time will tell if I had that.
I sure know what a good print should look like having seen countless works in countless museums and galleries over my 30+ year interest in the medium (for unexplainble reasons though Michael, I've yet to see your work "in person"..... I have to rectify that real soon). Further, I own a number of excellent images (silver and platinum) and I have hundreds of books on the subject. But, the hard part for me is to create my own "look" and "feel" to my work. Sure I've had some success in a number of shows, grants and awards but my prints are really not where I want them to be at this time.
Platinum is not suited to my style of photography (yes, I've tried it and I fully agree with you on this Michael). POP? I don't like it (tried it when the CAW POP came from Fance rather than from England). Bergger Contact? I've got some of that too and I don't care for it either (agreed again Michael, it's not a true "contact" paper at all - you could enlarge this stuff quite easily. BTW, I much prefer the Bergger NB papers to their Contact). I also have some of their (very expensive) Silver Supreme which has disapointed me more than any other paper before (Pictorialists would love this stuff though). I've also tried Oriental, Brilliant, Forte, Ilford and Agfa products. Many are quite nice but none are taking me to where I want/should be. Perhaps Amidol/Azo is where my efforts need to be concentrated. I'll soon find out.
In closing, I must say that it is a true blessing to have an established Artist such as Michael take the time and effort to so generously contribute to my, and other posts, here and elsewhere. You can only be commended for this Michael.