Edward Weston's Dark Rich Chocolate/Black Mid-Dark tones

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Sean

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Hi,

I've been looking through several of Weston's books lately. Many of his contact prints seem to have mid to dark tones of a dark rich brown/black. Is this achieved by a paper we can not obtain anymore, or by toning? thanks
 

Donald Miller

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Sean,

I don't know that this duplicates Westons values and colors exactly but I have found that JandC Polywarmtone is capable of giving warm dark blacks.

More recently, the Pyro Plus Print Developer that I have been working on has a noticeable effect on Seagull VCFB. When that paper is developed in that developer and then selenium toned the toning effect on that paper is quite pronounced in the values IV and below. Almost a rich brownish slight reddish black. I find this interesting since that paper does not tone in that manner when developed in Dektol. I can't account for the difference other then to note that it does exist.

The papers that Weston used are long gone, with the exception of Azo. Even Azo has gone through several changes in emulsion since then. The duplications in books may not match exactly the original print tones.
 

Francesco

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Sean, I have never seen a Weston print in person but if you are looking for such mid and dark tonal quality try AZO developed in Amidol or developed in Pyro (I have not yet tried Donald Miller's PPPD but I use pyrocatechol to develop my AZO prints). Perhaps not as brown/black but certainly as rich.
 
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Sean

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thanks guys, I will be using azo, so guess I should have asked what gives the most rich tones in azo that are similar to Weston's. I think I'll be experimenting a lot.
 

Francesco

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I would certainly recommend a pyro paper developer as it is quite economical and perhaps (in my eyes) as good as and perhaps even better than Amidol. The nice thing about AZO is that (1) procedures for correctly exposing the negative are highly documented in the AZO forum, (2) printing procedures and chemistry are fairly straightforward and (3) the learning curve is between 50 to 100 sheets (not long at all if you ask me). Plus it is fun to just use a bare bulb to make prints
 

felipemorgan

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I had the wonderful opportunity to visit with about a hundred or so Weston prints in a Chattanooga, TN art museum a year or two ago. I also own or have read about every book featuring reproductions of Weston prints (at least the books I can lay my hands on).

I agree with the original poster here that many books that reproduce Weston prints do so with a wonderful warmtone ink (though not all: "California and the West" suffers from poor reproductions that were, I'm sure, the best available at the time but contain very neutral, anemic blacks). See " Edward Weston: Photography and Modernism" for some stunning examples.

Based on my experience of seeing original Weston prints in a museum setting, the reproductions in books tend to be warmer than the originals, with the exception of his platinum prints which are, or course, quite warm in the originals. This leads me to the uncomfortable position of preferring in some cases the tone of the book reproductions over the originals! There is, though, a very special quality to an original Weston print. In my own opinion, it's the mid-tones of Weston's prints that really resonate with life.

cheers,
--Philip.
 

Aggie

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Sean get Paula and Michaels new Westoin book. The first part of the book they used the same type of paper and inks to get as close to the real looking weston prints as possible. It is stunning and well worth the price. Now i sound like a walking advertisiment for one of Michaels books. It is just that good on quality and reproduction.
 

victor

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sean - i can suggest using the ilford warmtone 24k (semimatt verssion) developed in bromophen for two minutes as starting point (that will keep the black like warmer and richer after fixing and the grey and white a bit cooler).
the mcc 118/111 is also worth a try (for 1.5min in bromophen)

over all - look also at the prints of erica lennard (her women or her gardens). the trick is to put the black into a kind of texturized position and that will give the vissual illussion of "color" and richness.
i dont know what is the way u print and develop ypur film, but u may need some adjusment to make an apropriate negative curve, which enables u to:
stay a +/- half step higher than the full black
but, still being able to produce deep over all image and local contrast (at least for local contrast, the selenium toning of negative will be very helpful), for the rest u have to reconsider the situation of scene etc etc.
 

lee

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Sean,

Buy about 500 dollars worth of Oriental paper and print and print and print. Pay attention to what works and what doesn't and make as good a negative as you can. Hint:It is easier to be a good printer with a good negative. Maybe even find a dealer that sells Weston prints and buy a cheaper one if he is who you want to print like. I have 2 that Cole printed in the late '50's. I look at this work daily. Someone above said that all that paper Ed used is gone now with the exception of Azo. That said I think that there is a couple of great papers out there. Oriental is one. Ilford Warmtone is the other. Find someone you think can print and show that person your work and try to get them to help you. Becoming a great printer is not something that happens over nite. Take a workshop when you next come to the States. Sexton might give you some insight to the why's and how's but it is gonna take awhile. Now if you don't have a job and a wife and kid and house and are really rich then it might come quicker. You can read all you want but you gotta get out there and do it. You need to make the mistakes that everyone makes and figure out how to eliminate them in your system. Patience is mandatory when starting out. John Sexton tells stories about doing goofy stuff when he is just back to photographing after a long lay off. He generally ends up kicking the tripod while making a long exposure. The point is, EVERYONE that is not involved on a day to day basis is gonna waste some film and paper and above all else time.

lee\c

edited by lee\c for a butt load of grammar errors!

Sorry this is so scattered.
 

Alex Hawley

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Someone asked this question on the Azo forum a while back. Michael's reply was that many of the papers Weston used are no longer available. Azo has become cooler over the years too.

Adding to what Donald and Lee have recommended, Ilford WT is really nice. So is Forte polywarmtone but its slow and can split-tone unattractively in selenium. I like J&C warmtone the best so far, especially developed in amidol.
 

Adrian Twiss

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Alex Hawley said:
Adding to what Donald and Lee have recommended, Ilford WT is really nice. So is Forte polywarmtone but its slow and can split-tone unattractively in selenium. I like J&C warmtone the best so far, especially developed in amidol.

Too right. I found that Polywormtone goes an evil red in selenium, especially if the working solution is too strong. Also I found that it had, to my eye, an unpleasant olive tint if developed in Agfa Neutol WA. I used to develop it in Maxim Muirs Blue Black developer and found that it gave a more neutral tone but with a lovely tonal scale.

I may be off track in suggesting this but Agfa Viradon at 1:50 gives dark chocolate tones in the low values. Stinks a bit tho' :Sick:
 

glbeas

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How about that technique Aggie came up with a while back that created those lovely chocolate tones? I can't remember what she did but the results were quite nice to look at.
 

lee

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Sean,
I think you are confusing the printed word and image for what Ed Westons photos really looked like. I have 2 that Cole printed and they are very cold toned. I have seen quite a bit of Ed's work in the past and I don't think that the thought, "Hummm, really nice warm tones here!" ever crossed my mind. This only is for the silver printing he did not the platinum.

lee\c
 

Donald Miller

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I saw a large showing of Edw Weston prints at the Amon Carter in Ft Worth, Texas. Both platinum and silver. I would agree with Lee about the print color.

The thing that struck me about Weston's prints was how heavy they were printed. In fact I commented at the time that they were not tasteful, in my opinion. I have since changed my opinion about his prints. Along with the heavy values was a glow. Whether that was due to the materials or some other reason, I really don't know. I would guess that it was due to several things. I would repeat that those I saw did not show a brown color.

For a more accurate appraisal of Edw. Westons prints, I would purchase the book that Michael Smith is bringing to market. The images in that book will duplicate as near as humanly possible the original prints.
 
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Sean

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looks like I'll need to get this book, or convince the library too..
 

Donald Miller

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Sean,
Michael is running a prerelease promotion on the book and I believe that it can be obtained direct from him. He can be contacted on the Azo forum. As I recall the promotion runs until 4-30-04 so there is only a couple of days left on the deal. I know that Michael went and stood on press when the printing was being done...so I am sure that this is as good as it gets. Good luck.
 

Wayne

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Some of the EW prints I saw in Chicago a few years ago had a subtle but definite warmth to them. A couple pictures of Charis come to mind. The rest were either neutral or cold, it was so freekin dark in the exhibit it was hard to tell.
 

JBrunner

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In Ansel's autobiography he comments on prints from Edwards negatives printed by Brett or Cole.

"Prints from Edwards negatives made by Brett or by Cole are very fine and I enjoy them too. Yet Edwards prints proclaim the the artist in thier own inimitable way."

FWIW, it sound to me like there are some differences, how much IDK because I have never had the chance to see for myself.
 

Peter Schrager

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Weston Prints

Matt-I saw that show down in Miami. I was extremely disappointed by the heavy tones. Of course they insist on keeping the lights very low also. Recently I was at the MOMA in NYC and saw some other Westons. They looked to be in perfect form. But I have no idea if they were printed by him or the kids. Sorry but to me the one's in Miami were just too darn dark.
Peter
 

donbga

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Aggie said:
Sean get Paula and Michaels new Westoin book. The first part of the book they used the same type of paper and inks to get as close to the real looking weston prints as possible. It is stunning and well worth the price. Now i sound like a walking advertisiment for one of Michaels books. It is just that good on quality and reproduction.
Lodima Press is about as good as it gets. Michael is really the driving force for the book printing and demands the best possible printing.

I've looked at a lot of E. Weston's work in public and private collections and I can't ever recall any of his silver gelatin prints having chocolate color tones. They are either neutral or slightly cold toned.

His early platinum work is quite another story though, probably all of the platinum work I've seen by E. Weston is very warm toned, but they don't have the look nor necessarily the color of modern platinum prints. I don' t know if this is due to the age of the prints or just how the platinum paper was that he purchased.

There are different methods for getting warm tones with modern papers which start with the developer paper combination. Several of the old warm toned developers can work very nicely. And of course there are different ways to warm tone as well. The final apperance that a paper has from toning is also dependent upon the type of developer and temperature of the developer.

But getting back to Weston, on the whole he worked as simply as possible with the materials he had on hand; his "modern" work didn't encompass warm toned prints.

Don Bryant
 

nworth

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I saw a show of Weston prints last year. Many of those that showed the deep brown tone were platinum or palladium prints. But so did some of the silver prints. At the time, Ansco made a warm toned contact paper that may have been used. In fact, there were quite a few contact papers available, several of them with warmer tones than we are used to now. Kodak's Illustrator's Azo had a somewhat warmer tone than ordinary Azo. Partial toning may also have been used in some cases.
 

c6h6o3

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He used a great many different papers and got a great many different tones. The best tones, to my eye, are an almost golden color, just about impossible to describe. Truly unique. I also think that the look of his prints had a lot to do with the cadmium which was put in the paper back then, and that we'll never duplicate that look. Would we really want to do so?

Why not strive for your own tone? When I hit one just right I'm thrilled. Certain prints of mine have a unique tone which is quite distinctive and which brand them as my own.
 

Wayne

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Cole Weston once wrote "Dad loved Haloid...it had a wonderful warm tonality".
 
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Polycontrast J gave very nice chocolate brown blacks with Dektol and Kodak brown toner. That is the secret. The bad news is the paper has been gone 30 years and nothing else works.

I have spent countless hours making 3x5 prints with different papers, developers, and toners. One time I had a grid of the last work o the dinning room table with a hundred small prints with different combinations of above. Trashed `em all.

Polycontrast J also worked well with Kodak Blue Toner. It gave cool blacks and bluish mid to light tones. Snow stuff looked great.

Later I`ll read all the posts here and see what is currently working for people. Post your successes please. I`m out of time to experiment.
 
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