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  1. #1
    Denis P.'s Avatar
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    What is Sally Mann doing in "What Remains" documentary, at around 13:15?

    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...

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    She appears to be toning the print.

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    Looks like she is toning print too me also.

    Jeff

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    Greg Davis's Avatar
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    It's varnish.
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    RobertP's Avatar
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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.
    Last edited by RobertP; 10-08-2009 at 01:39 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  6. #6
    Denis P.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RobertP View Post
    Varnishing is the final step in the wet plate collodion process. Its used on tintypes, ambrotypes and glass plate negatives.
    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

    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. #7
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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:

    Strand's formula for surfacing prints was reproduced in Ansel Adams' The Print(1950): "First, one buys a small can of lithographer's varnish No. 1...This should last for years. Next one buys a bottle of Carbona (carbon tetrachloride), the solvent for the varnish...A good way to get the varnish into the Carbona is with a swab stick, letting it run off drop by drop until the Carbona is a lemon-yellow color after shaking. The varnish is then ready to apply with a piece of cotton. Cover the print thoroughly...then smooth the whole surface out by taking almost all the varnish off by rubbing briskly with a piece of dry absorbent cotton...The varnish is slow-drying (3 or 4 days)...and I have never noticed any evidence of discoloration." Adams noted "This print varnish is for matte, semimatte, and semigloss prints."
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    Denis P.'s Avatar
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    Thanks for the explanation, Keith.

    I still have a lot to learn

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    RobertP's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Denis P. View Post
    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

    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)?
    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. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by RobertP View Post
    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.
    She coats transparent glass plates and print them on what appears to be normal photographic paper.

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