Uttermost perversion

An idea I had long time ago was to switch back to black and white film photography.

I started with film photography in the 70th, mostly black and white.

At university I developed film on glass plates in the spectroscopy lab.

Later I met Michel Medinger while at a holiday job at the Laboratoire de Santé (service des eaux directed by Josy Barthel)  in Luxembourg . He made me dive into artistic photography.

As a teacher in chemistry I offered courses in black and white photography, joined the local photo group Flash.

With the coming of digital photography, the difficulty to get chemicals and paper and access to a darkroom I moved somehow away from photography.

What brought me back to photography was my activity at the print museum in Grevenmacher where among the printmaking I got in charge of making plates for relief printing. This leaded to photography in combination with printmaking . This again brought  me to investigate alternative photography as I didn’t need a darkroom.

The latest and I think the most perverse idea is to shoot on film as I did in the 70th and 80th, but being in lack of a darkroom to digitize the negative and from thereon to proceed on the computer.

This offers several advantages.

It us less tiresome than printing on paper, especially retouching. The darkroom work is simplified by using Gimp and Rawtherapee (or any other software).

I still may print on traditional paper (which s fun).

I can produce digital negatives/positives to continue in alternative processes, in printmaking or on paper.

My digitizing set-up:

Top –> Down

  • camera
  • mask
  • glass plate
  • milky milar plate
  • whute diffusor
  • Mcoplus Pro Series LED video light

For digitizing I use a Lumix DC-FZ82 with exposure bracketing -1 0 +1.

The 3 images are combined in GIMP using G’MIC-Qt filter Layers-Blend [Average All].

Adjustments and inversion are made with GIMP.

Classic paper print (probably Ilford RC grade 2)
Digital printout

The picture at the top is the digital file. Looks more or less OK.

If one compares the two print outs there are a number of differences. Comparing the digital to the paper print there are to noticeable differences which one is able to redress: the contrast for the digital is somehow less than for the classical print. Also the digital shows some tint (printed on home printer with no colour management). Both I think may be adjusted by tweaking a little.

The major difference which can’t be corrected is the difference in sharpness. There is a tremendous lack for the digital print compared to the classic print.

To give a idea I put both under a 10x magnifying glass and one notices the difference.


Whereas for the classic print the borders are clear and sharp they are smeared for the digital print.

Cyanotype: toning experiments


Cyanotype which after development was toned with black tea (Ostfriesentee).


 Bleached with borax and than toned with black tea (Ostfriesentee).


Cyanotype  bleached in diluted Rodinal solution and afterwards toned with black tea (Ostfriesentee). (–> Black)


Same negative, same paper (Boesner LineArt224 ) and same sensitizer solution  (J. M. Eder: Rezepte, Tabellen und Arbeitsvorschriften für Photographie und Reproduktionstechnik, Verlag von Wilhem Knapp, Halle (Saale), 1942, 18.-19. Auflage, p.225).

Exposure times vary:  4′, 2′ and 5′ .

Contact print frame

P1010586-wMy penny plain contact print frame, front and rear view.

P1010583-w-300x225 P1010584-w-300x225

Materials needed:


A glass plate, cardboard of the same size as the glass, 4 clamps and some tape.


The cardboard is cut halfway through and reinforced on the back by some tape.

Open contact print frame for inspection of progress.


Some links to more elaborate DIY constructions:

Alternative Photography

Camera obscura



Herschel, Anna Atkins, Prussian blue – some links

Sir John Frederick Herschel and his invention/discovery of cyanotype:

Mike Ware:  John Herschel’s Cyanotype: Invention or Discovery?

International Photography Hall of Fame: Sir John Frederick William Herschel

Kshitij Nagar: Sir John Herschel: How Photography Got Its Fix

Chemistry and Light: Cyanotype process

Anna Atkins

Encyclopaedia Britannica: Anna Atkins English Photographer and Botanist

Joanna Moorhead: Blooming marvellous: the world’s first female photographer – and her botanical beauties

The Guardian: Blue prints: photography pioneer Anna Atkins’s hand-crafted images – in pictures

see also references in:  Cyanotype – In the footsteps of Anna Atkins

Prussian blue:

Amercan Chemical Society: Molecule of the Week  – Prussian blue

Alexander Kraft: On the Discovery and History of Prussian blue

John Griswold: The Accidental Color That Changed The Course Of Art

Digital negative transparency

There are numerous internet sites which propose how to produce a digital negative.

Some links:

Robert Hirsch


Christina Z. Anderson

Dan Burkholder

MP Photography (especially cyanotype)

Eyes On Photography (especially cyanotype)

and more.

And of course on paper see references in previous post.

A concise handout to get started ( workshop on cyanotype):

négatif-numérique (PDF)

References alternative photography (cyanotype)

Josef Maria Eder, Rezepte, Tabellen und Arbeitsvorschriften für Photographie und Reproduktionstechnik, Verlag von Wilhem Knapp, Halle (Saale), 1942, 18.-19. Auflage.
Christopher James, The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes, Delmar , CliftonPark, 2007, 2nd ed.
Jill Enfield, Jill Enfield’s Guide to Photogrphic Alternative Processes, Focal Press, New York & London, 2014
Malin Fabri & Gary Fabri, Blueprint to cyanotypes, Malin Fabri, Stockholm, 2006
Peter Mrhar, Cyanotype, Peter Mrhar, ?, 2013

Drying sensitized paper

Use adjustable coathangers and hang the sensitized paper in a coat closet protected from light .

This technique is especially usefull for sensitized textile.  The lower hanger may be weighted for stretching!


An alternative is to use a paper box with an iron plate at the base. Small magnets keep the paper in place and prevent buckling (depends on number of magnets and the humidity of the paper). Be carefull not to touch the sensitized part and cover the iron plate with some plastic (e.g. plastic bag) to prevent unwanted chemical reactions.


Cliché verre: a wink to Corot

An further option to produce a negative for alternative printing is the cliché verre. This art form  was “en vogue” at the Barbizon School, notably Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and Charles-François Daubigny. Cliché verre dates back to Fox Talbot.   Later to Barbizon interest was lost in this technique which is midway to printmaking and photography. The reason here for are explained extensively in this article by  Thomas Ketelsen.  A sketch of the history of cliché verre may be found over here.

The process to create a cliché verre is quite simple: a supporting material is covered with an opaque medium into witch the the drawing is scratched, drawn or whatever you can do to modify the opacity of the plate. One of the very first techniques consisted to smoke a glass plate with a candle (here a petroleum lamp).


The soot covered glass is scratched with a needle to draw in white lines. The negative obtained this way is used to expose light sensitive paper.



exposed cyanotype:



An alternative to this would be to cover the glass plate (could as well be some other transparent support like perspex, frosted Mylar, overhead transparency) with opaque medium: gouache, oil paint, indian ink, … and draw into this like in the soot, press an object into the still wet medium or  proceed like for material printing.


The base material should present some grip so that the paint can adhere to the support.

dandelions covered with gouache on perspex:


resulting print:


Note that oil paint needs a lot of time to dry, so I would not advise to use oil paint. Instead use some water based medium.

A painting medium allows for nuances to play with.


Or a craquelure effect (uneven drying, this might be a problem) :


Further reading: