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  1. #1
    David Brown's Avatar
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    First, I don't want to start a discussion of the merits of Robert Mapplethorpe's photos. I will readily admit that he is not my cup of tea, so let's not go into whether he was (or was not) morally bankrupt.

    Having said that, however, I also readily admit that the look of his prints fascinates me. The black and white portraits in "Some Women" are wonderfully lit, and the tonality is beautiful.

    Any knowledge out there on his technique? Film, printing, lighting, filters, etc.

    I know how Avedon got his trademark look. There's lot's of info on Ansel and Ed Weston, but how did this guy work? Technique, not subject matter!

    Love this site! Cheers, all!

    David

  2. #2

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    I apologize for not being able to cite my source here, but it was a book I checked out some time ago from the library called, I think, "Portraits" or "The Portrait" or the like. It profiled several photographic portrait artists including Mapplethorpe. The salient details I'm remembering are:

    Hasselblad w/ 150mm lens, Tri-x (probably exposed@200), Rodinal 1:25 or 1:50, subjects lit with two umbrella'd strobes, and printing sometimes done with pantyhose material stretched over the enlarger lens for slight diffusion.

    Beautiful simplicity!

    --Philip.

  3. #3
    blansky's Avatar
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    I agree, I believe the look of the skin was diffusion in the darkroom.


    Michael MCBlane

  4. #4
    hbc
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    i love robert maplethorpe's work even though i do not agree with his lifestyle, he had his own artistic vision wich i respect. technically i belive maplethorpe basically just clicked the shutter the rest was done by his assisstants, his favorite printer and one who a lot of credit should go to for the maplethorpe look was tom baril the unsung hero of the art of maplethorpe. once maplethorpe's father asked him' what kind of photographer are you when you do not even develop your own film'?

  5. #5
    David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    If you've seen original prints, the diffusion under the enlarging lens is pretty obvious, but not on all of his portraits. Many seem to be printed pretty straight.
    flickr--http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidagoldfarb/
    Photography (not as up to date as the flickr site)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com/photo
    Academic (Slavic and Comparative Literature)--http://www.davidagoldfarb.com

  6. #6
    David R Munson's Avatar
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    His prints really are gorgeous. I've played around with diffusion during printing and found that I got the best results (read most like Mapplethorpe's) using black stocking material stretched over a filter frame, and that would be in place for about half the enlarging time.

  7. #7
    roy
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    I love his floral work for the simplicity of his style.
    Roy Groombridge.

    Cogito, ergo sum.
    (Descartes)

  8. #8
    Ole
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    I've used the AN half of a MF slide frame for diffusion, for between 1/4 and 2/3 of the exposure. Works like a dream.
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  9. #9

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    My favorite Mapplethorpe book is I believe called "Portraits", or something similar. He got so much out of his subjects. Seemed to be regular Tri-x with a 80 or 150mm lens.
    I read somewhere that Tom Baril did much of his printing. Maybe with Ektalure? Tom has since had a couple books of his own.

    BTW, I bought 2 boxes of Ektalure when it was discontinued and stuck it in the freezer. I'm saving it for portraits worthy of the paper. Unfortuately, I haven't taken any!

  10. #10
    Les McLean's Avatar
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    Mapplethorpes prints are quite beautiful, in fact I would rate only Paul Caponigros as being better. I have read an authoratitive Mapplethorpe biography that claims he never processed a film or made a print, this was all done by Tom Baril as Tom Duffy has suggested. Apparently when Baril took the job as Mapplethortpes printer he was told by the man that when he went to his loft appartment to work in the darkroom he should stay in there and thereafter the only words that passed between them was when Mapplethorpe said either burn this or dodge that. Baril also processed all film that was exposed.

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