Wow thanks for all the input everyone, much appreciated. I just reserved Star Trax and Werk from the library. Printing for me has always been a bit of a challenge, but I'm pretty determined so I will keep at it. If you guys also enjoy Anton's work you should check out the documentary on his "Directors Label" DVD by Palm Pictures - he talks a good amount on his background as a photographer. While you are at it, watch his music videos, they are fairly resemblant of his work with stills - I think U2's "Electrical Storm" captures his lith style the best.
Hi guys, I'm a newbie here so I hope you won't mind me diving into this thread.
I'm based in London and am a mature student. Do you have those in the US? It means I'm too old to be a student. :-) No, it means I'm older than the usual age for a student, though in my case I'm at least old enough to be a mum to anyone in my class. Anyhow, I signed up for a diploma course in ... dare I say it ... digital photography, but then I was set a research assignment, to spend six weeks researching Anton Corbijn.
Why did I sign up for digital, when the same college does a parallel course in film photography?
Well, I used to shoot film. I had two film SLRs - a Pentax ME Super and a Canon EOS 100 - but I never learnt darkroom work back then, and the mainstream labs were already abandoning B&W processing, or charging a lot more for it. When digital became viable, as in the availability of DSLRs with enough megapixels to make decent sized prints, I adopted it because, since I was already an intensive computer user, it would be cheaper than film. By the time I found my course, last summer, I wasn't really getting the film cameras out anymore and had invested so much time in trying to teach myself photoshop, I didn't really envisage wanting to learn a new skill, or spend hours in the dark, slopping chemicals around. However, in my entrance interview for the course, the head of faculty said we would use medium and large format cameras in the studio and process the films, just doing enough to get acquainted with our photographic roots. I liked that idea. Enough to remove any mystery for me. Mysteries bug me and I'd always been just a little bit intrigued about how people processed film and made their own prints, especially knowing so many people did it at home.
Bob Carnie, you might be comforted to know that, here in the UK, there are still plenty of colleges with darkrooms (and wet rooms). I now attend two for different courses.
My research project on Corbijn - well, I wish this forum topic had existed when I was doing that. It would have been fantastic to fill in the gaps in what I was able to find out. I knew he shot with 'blads and printed liths, but I didn't know which paper he used, or whether he did his own printing or had someone do it for him. I read a suggestion that Tim Rudman might have been the man who taught Corbijn about lith and got him hooked. Martin Reed, do you know if that's true?
Neither my local nor college libraries had any Corbijn books and there were no exhibitions in the UK. I really wanted to see his prints in the flesh, as it were. Books would only contain reproductions, but they'd still give me a better feel than seeing them on the web, especially when you don't know who scanned them or how well/poorly. Friends came to the rescue and interrogated their university arts libraries. I ended up getting my hands on four books: Start Trax and Famouz, and the Stern Spezial Photografie supplement. I was hooked. And frustrated. And annoyed with myself.
I used to go to so many gigs in my youth, and never thought to take a camera. It might have been easier to get one in than it is now. If I'd had the ability, back then, to think outside the box a bit more, I might have gone down the rock photography route. (Corbijn doesn't like being called a rock photographer, by the way. He finds it insulting. He regards himself as a photographer who happens to photograph a lot of musicians.)
So, having printed one photogram and one actual photograph in the college darkroom, I took the darkroom technician aside and asked him if he could secretly help me to make a lith print - even if it wasn't very good - to surprise my tutor, because she had specifically asked me to research "a particular technique" that Corbijn is known for. I couldn't think of a more thorough way to research it than by having a go! The tech didn't even think about it. Just said no, it's too complicated, too difficult, you're not ready for that yet. Deflating? I accepted it as fair comment, but as I have access to darkrooms for hire in a club where I'm a member, I thought, "Stuff you, matey - I'll do it without you."
I started reading about lith printing on forums and in a book I found in the UK's famous Mr Cad shop in Croydon. I reckon I spend more time there than in the supermarket now. :-) I realised it was not a beginner's process, but then I found a link to Tim Rudman's site and saw that he runs workshops. So I signed up for a three day lith printing workshop in April and I can hardly wait.
Knowing this, my tutor told me she'd been asked to teach a darkroom course at an adult education centre on the other side of London, and asked if I'd be interested in enrolling. Two hours on Tuesday evenings for 10 weeks, and at a reasonable price to include all chemicals and disposable aprons. You just had to bring your own films, gloves and paper.
I'm so hooked on film, I bought a Bronica ETR outfit with three lenses, three backs, prism viewfinder and speed grip.
If anyone's interested in my darkroom adventures to date, I blogged about it at http://avriljones.wordpress.com. Feel free to tell me if I got anything wrong, and chuckle at how much I have yet to learn.
Glad to hear, and welcome, Avril.
I'll just preface my comments by saying that I'm just slightly ahead of you -- not a lith master by any stretch of the imagination -- but I've got a few nice liths in my gallery here that have been well received.
I'm not sure about the darkroom technician's response that it is too difficult or advanced. In my own opinion (and maybe only mine), lith printing does not require any specialized rigour or skill beyond rudimentary darkroom printing, just an eagerness, willingness, and patience to dive into a less-well-defined black art.
The exposure is simple, and the chemical development is pretty simple too, just as long as repeatability and outcomes based on 'previsualization' have been left at the doorstep. A master lith printer has the experience, the method, and the finesse to consistently produce wonderful prints, and within bounds, reproduce them nearly identically at will. But don't let that stop you!
I might suggest a few things from my own attempts:
1) Film grain helps. So enlargements from small format rather than from medium or large format.
2) Paper matters a lot. Since you are in the UK, you've got access to Fotospeed lith paper. But there are plenty of samples here on APUG done with different paper, each according to individual taste and paper availability. Besides Tim Rudman, APUG also has Wolfgang Moersch who has done a lot of R&D and makes a range of chemistry that matches papers. Check out his images here, too, for inspiration.
3) Although the Lith A+B chemistry is simple and cheap, buy in bulk, as you'll probably want to make different dilutions to try. Once working solutions are prepared, they don't last long in the tray.
4) Don't go out of your mind trying to match exactly what other lith printers are able to achieve with grain and hue. With your paper and chemistry, you will get a unique look, but it will probably be a little different from what other folks get. Just go with it!
I hope you give it a go, and please post what you can!
Sorry, I'm not Martin, but I am pretty sure that Mike Spry, (who has printed Anton's work for ages, years, even decades), is the one to thank for Anton Corbijn's wonderful lith prints as well as all the other stuff. It's interesting that two of his most famous photographs, (Captain Beefheart and Miles Davis) are not liths so maybe it's best not to categorize him too much as being only Mr Lith. Also, if you haven't seen it yet, do make an effort to see his directorial debut, 'Control' which is a great film.
Originally Posted by Avril
PS. Lith printing is really not as difficult or mysterious as some make out, especially the technician you mentioned. One just needs to know the basics and then have lots of time to practise. I'm sure if you are doing a Tim Rudman course you will then be able to teach the technician a thing or two!
Last edited by Mike Crawford; 02-22-2010 at 04:59 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Not in China, closer to home Consequently not really worth bringing coals back to Newcastle. It's a tragedy that the original factory foundered, but as with Forte it seems every financial avenue had been sounded out. It's also possible that the original Seagull emulsion was becoming an environmental liability, which might have been linked to the demise.
Originally Posted by Tom Kershaw
The history of New Seagull paper might be a little boring, as it was only launched in 1967, but that of the Oriental Company themselves, who survived WW2 would probably be very interesting.
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I'm pretty sure not. Going back a bit....'Lith' in the sense of colour & tone was alive and kicking a long time back, starting probably in the '60's, exploited by a variety of people mucking about with graphic arts papers (Kodalith LP was the best). So 'lithing' became a specialist technique most commercial printers would have a crack at on request.
Originally Posted by Avril
I first brought Seagull paper into the UK in 1984, purely on the basis that it was going down so well in the US it must be interesting & have potential here. At first I had no idea it had lith potential, & neither did the manufacturers. I actually kept the fact we had the paper quiet from Mike Spry for a while, as at the time his premises were next door to 'Process Supplies', and I didn't want a rival importer. Eventually Mike told me to come clean, I dropped him off some paper to test, and he single-handedly discovered that it lithed - he was already printing extensively for Anton & they worked the technique up together.
Avril: Now I wish I could get my hands on a lith workshop! Jealous. If you are looking for the next best thing from an actual Anton print, I recommend the book "Star Trax". The prints are very nice and look much better than many do in "Werk".
Mike: Control is a great film. I was a little sad that there was no Academy love for such a venture. I thought Sam Riley as Ian Curtis was stellar. Anton's making a new film with George Clooney that is out later this year. We will see how that goes since I do believe it is shot in color.
Quick question. But did any of you see his film control? A great film about the short lived Joy Division, which was one of Corbijn's favourite bands and which he followd for quite some time. One of my alltime favourite movies and I can recommend it to anyone who is a fan of Corbijn and his work!
Speaking of Corbijn, has anyone seen 'The American'?
A couple of years ago, there was a television documentary about Corbijn.
At one point in the film, they were discussing the progression of his style, of his work, in a museum that held an exhibition of his work to date. Corbijn had to stop, walk away from the camera for a while. It wasn't explained, but probably obvious enough what had happened: talking about directions he had gone, choices he had made, it hit him that he was talking about the past, standing in the midst of a retrospective.
A mark of succes, yes. But nothing new. Nothing pointing towards, or giving a glimps of, a future? Dead end?