Signing Contact Prints
Question for you all...
I'd like to be able to "sign" my contact prints, and was thinking about how to do this.
Old-tyme photogs would sign their names on the negs, in black, blocking the light and putting their sig on each print. Or they'd scratch it into a dense part of the neg with a needle.
I had what I think might be a better idea, and was trying to see if anybody had done something similar, and if so, maybe pick up pointers.
My thought was that in contact printing, if a person could sign the backside of the top glass with opaque ink, then any contact print made using that top plate would have the sig on it. And I wouldn't have to risk damaging the neg.
I guess my questions are:
1. Anybody done this before?
2. How did you put the sig on the glass plate?
3. What sort of ink?
Maybe it's just a pipe dream, but I hope not. The more I think about it, the better idea it seems, in theory at least...
Just an idea...
Use an "intermediate sheet" of something like mylar. Sign that with black opaque ink - you may have to try several to find one that sticks.
Then put the intermediate sheet between the glass and the negative.
The drawback is that it's two more surfaces where dust can collect. The advantage is that you can write the right way around, and don't have to worry about mirror writing as you would if you signed the backside of the glass. The sheet would also be easy to change, so you could write the title of the picture too - just like in "old tymes". :)
Thanks, Ole! That's a very good idea.
The reason for my interest is because I'm thinking of shooting 1920s vintage cars with 1920s vintage gear (except for the film) on 5x7, and selling the prints. I'm around those kinds of cars a lot, and at some of those shows already, and I've got a feeling (still asking around to confirm it) that such a product would be very popular, at least until everybody had a contact print or two or three of their vehicle and themselves (perhaps in vintage clothing).
Its an oddly popular practice in sydney australia to have an in signature on the contact sheet
oddly enough that was just about the same thing that made me think of that way of doing it: Every spring the local veteran automobile club has their annual outing, which includes a stop in my village to wait for the ferry across the fjord. So I was thinking - if I took a vintage camera down there and offered "vintage-style" prints, how many would want them? And how should I do them? The club members are always dressed up in the latest fashion from when their cars were new anyway, so that part of the problem is already taken care of. :)
Now that's funny - two people around the world with the same idea, at the same time.
My dad is about 75 or so, and has a couple Model T Fords from the 1920s that he drives a lot. He's active in the local Model T Ford club, and Detroit / Dearborn Michigan are only about 60 miles to the north of where I live.
Anyway, the Henry Ford Museum has several old car events, and it's about 1.5 miles from my girlfriend's house. I was at the last one, taking pics of a 1920s Indian motorcycle, using a 1920s 4x5 press camera, and the reaction was interesting. People were taking picture of me taking pictures! So that got me to thinking that there might be some interest (from the owners) in the photos.
The Indian's owner, I offered him the pics if I could sit on his bike, and he agreed. When I mailed him the photos a week later, he was dazzled. He'd never seen anything like 4x5 contact prints before, and members of his local vintage motorcycle club thought he'd found another old Indian. Didn't realize it was his.
I was thinking some small portfolio would be helpful, of other old cars and owners. Small and mobile. If they want a pic, fine. If not, I won't push it- big film is expensive.
I was figuring 5x7 contact prints, signed as we discussed above, sometimes it might be just the car, sometimes it might be the car and owners in vintage clothes. Signed like the old days. And not cheap, because I figure it costs about $2 each time I hit the shutter on a big camera.
I'm thinking of offering 9x12cm "snapshots" and 24x30cm "formals" as well, or maybe 18x24cm. Anyway I'll stick to the classic "metric" formats, and either sulfide-toned FB prints of gold-toned POP. Depends on how the negatives turn out, I guess...
The 9x12's are easy - I can do that with the old Speed Graphic, or with the even older Voigtlšnder Bergheil.
13x18cm and 18x24cm are easy too - Gandolfi's look traditional enough to satisfy even the most discerning vintage car owner.
24x30cm is even better - but the camera needs a new bellows. The one I have looks more like lace than leather. :(
If anybody near Denmark want to do this, there is one event that is "The one". The GavnÝ Autojumble. They have a historic competition, that ususaly covers most of a century. You can read more about the event here: http://gavnoe.dk/. I am affiliated with the event, but I have been there and the setting is beautiful and the competition is fun.
A better idea for adding a sig to a contact print, if you have just one sig to apply to many prints:
Use film! Take a sheet that's unexposed, process it to get rid of the emulsion, and you'll have a clear sheet of perfectly-sized plastic film to write your signature on. And a sheet of film would line up perfectly with other sheets of film.
You'd probably only want one sig for an entire event, as it would be a rather expensive use of film if everybody got their own signature.... Even if you were doing it on (cheaper) mylar, I'm not sure I'd want to have to make a bunch of different sigs for an event.
I'm going to try it, maybe tonight. I've got some 4x5 contact prints to do... just need to figure out where to get ink that is opaque. I don't know if permanent black marker would be enough.