Small prints - 1930s style
I have recently taken a liking to making small prints, the sort that fit into your shirt pockets with ziggy edges, like those you would see in war movies.
This is primarily due to limitation in my equipment, I only have a very basic 135/6x6 enlarger, and I work out of a modified toliet darkroom in a small apartment.
Now that I have managed some good initial results, I would like to know if anyone here can offer me advise on achieving a more authentic 1930s look with my prints, I am trying to reproduce the style of work from 1930s photo studio, I assume it would not be demanding from a equipment point of view.
My negatives will be shot with Kiev II and Spotmatics, and also a 1939 Tessar equppied Rolleiflex when I get round to having it repaired. I am more interested in emulating the end result rather than actually trying to reproduce the whole image chain.
So to start off, is there anything I should take care of when making small prints of 2"1/2 x3"1/2? I do have some chinese made triplet enlarger lenses as well as Russian and more a mordern 75mm Fujinon EX.
I will be printing with grade 3 Ilford Merit RC paper. However I will try to do some archival work with FB paper when my exsisting stock of RC paper runs out.
Sepia toning would eventually be a option, but at the moment I would like to avoid any chemical that is overly difficult to handle due to toxicity.
I think the photos in my grandfathers place are contacts from his Voightländer 6x9 folder.
Small prints from a 1930's photo studio would be contact prints, on POP, from 6x9 negatives or similar. I have some old 6x6 prints somewhere, too.
Making anything else look like a 6x9 contact print on POP is difficult. Too difficult for me at least, so I make 6x9 contact prints on POP instead. Much simpler.
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
I'm not sure how you would define the 1930's look, but certainly the using old equipment from that era would help. Stick to your Rollei, and use Kodak film and photo chemicals that have been around for a long time.
I see, so using 35mm negatives is not really "authentic".
If I can only use 35mm, what would be the difference between enlargement and printing-out-paper? Given that film emulsion have improved in the last 70 or so years. Obviousely there will be subtle difference, but is there any way to eliminate that?
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You are not the only person to be fascinated with this look. I love it myself though I often prefer a 5x enlargement off 35mm -- the biggest most people would have gone in the 30s, whole-plate (6.5 x 8.5 inch) paper with a nice big border around the image.
The best films I have found for a 'generic' 1930s tonality are Forte, preferably overexposed by a stop or so (which also makes for bigger grain and lower sharpness). Fomapan 200 in FX39 comes close to the late 30s/early 40s Kodak tonality. I wouldn't agree with Firecracker because Kodak's films have been updated too often.
True sulphide toning gives the best browns, NOT thiourea/thiocarbanide. It stinks, but toxicity isn't a significamt issue with even an iota of common sense. Consider how few photographers it killed in the 1930s when it was commonplace.
Then you need to look for a deckle-edge trimmer to give the raggedy edge on your prints...
After my re-introduction to film I quickly gravitated to this vintage look. It's hard to describe other than it has a "richness" I find very appealing. I shoot with an old camera and an old lens. I'm in the same boat as you with the darkroom, but I'm still trying to gather all the "stuff" to set it up. I'll be making contact prints only since I don't even own an enlarger let alone have space for one.
Good luck and please post some of your work.
I used to do this a lot, for the same reasons that you've stated. The old snaps from an album can be inspiring. The others have mentioned above how to use the proper equipment (mostly old) and techniques to first get on your negative an ancient looking image. Uncoated or older triplets should give you that. Look for an old box camera which shoots 6x9- its lens is also bound to be uncoated. Box cameras are also prone to blurring due to the clumsy shutter release arrangements many of them have. The imprecise lens placement also contributes to that 'focus-unfocused' look which many of the old snapshots have. An old folding camera with a rickety lens board should also do this.
A photo shot on 35mm film should be admissible too. Granted that is, you shoot with an old 35mm camera with old-style film. Get an old Zorki with an old Industar and some Era film. That should get you started. Develop the Era film in softworking developer.
It was the "Chinese connection" years ago which allowed me to mimic the 'old' look. I had access to Era and Era bromide paper. The single weight fibre based paper made in China have a lot in common with the papers they used decades ago. Sadly, I couldn't get these films and papers now.
Print as you would normally. You can age the photo by using sepia toner (two bath bleach/sulphide toner) in a peculiar way. You could do one of these things:
#1. Don't wash the print well. Then bleach and tone. The remaining hypo would react with the bleach and cause the highlights to burn out a bit, simulating fading from age. The residual chemistry also reacts with both bleach and sulphide which will give variable and random streaking, as well as staining in the highlights and paper base. Using a 'tired' fixer will help- as it is loaded with silver which can deposit in the paper fibres. The sulphide toner loves these and causes the paper base to stain.
#2. Wash the print well. Then bleach with with the toner bleach. Don't bleach all the way, but stop the moment the highlights and midtones are gone, leaving only the shadows. Wash quickly, and then expose the print to bright sunlight until the bleached portions darken again. This is like doing a simulated POP print. The image will not be exactly black or brown. You may find some shades of lilac and rose there. Xiamen or Shanghai bromide paper did this quite well.
#3. Wash the print well. Do the instructions given in #2. But this time, give the print a very short dunk in the sulphide bath. It would help if you could dilute the sulphide bath 4 fold to restrain its action. Then just as the print is about 75% redeveloped, pull it out and wash thoroughly. Then put it back in the bleach bath for as long as it will take to bleach it again. After this, you have to option to put in in the sulphide bath again, or just expose it to bright sunlight. Either way, you get a print with confused shades of black and brown- just like in an aged print.
All of the techniques above deal with toning- but not following the 'correct' method. When followed as instructed, the bleach/tone process will often just lead to yellowish sepia brown tones. Quite boring . But when 'bastardised', it really gives unpredictable, yet more interesting tones.
Then when the paper just looks the way you like it, wash it and remember to harden it. I used drum glazer (that large rotating heated drum with a polished chrome surface). The finish is just like the old glossy snapshots.
To put the icing, trim the edges (remember to print with borders!) using a deckle edge trimmer. Another China connection- the trimmer which I used also came from China.
BTW, are you the same Hamster at RFforums who asked for shutter curtains? I have some now.
In addition to the films Roger Hicks mentions, Efke's emulsions have reportedly gone more-or-less unchanged since the 1940s or earlier. These might therefore be worth trying. Note that Efke's ISO 25 and 50 emulsions are both orthopanchromatic, which means they've got reduced red sensitivity compared to most other films. This will produce a distinctive look, which could be part of what you want. (I'm not sure when more modern panchromatic emulsions first appeared.)
As to film format, 35mm was certainly used for still photography in the 1930s. (The earliest Leicas came out well before then.) My understanding is that 35mm became much more popular a couple decades later, though.
My understanding is that RC paper is much more recent than the 1930s, so if you want to be as authentic as possible, you should go for FB paper exclusively. I'm afraid I have no suggestions for specific papers that are likely to produce the results you want, though.
Originally Posted by srs5694
35mm was quite popular in the 30s, outside of America though. What made it less popular was the price. Leicas were quite expensive. Printing by enlargment, as required by the 35mm negative was also more expensive than contact printing.