View Full Version : Contact Printing

Todd Frederick
3-Oct-1999, 12:19
I finished converting an old broken Speed Graphic to a field camera...I remove a lmost everything except the box, back rails, and lens board, and paint it with t extured black.

My objective is high quality contact B/W prints for mounting and display in sequ enced arrangements. Two questions:

1. I usually use standard printing paper to make roll film proof sheets, but it was suggested to me a while back to use "Azo" chloro- bromide paper for 4x5 con tacts if I want to display them. What difference might I see and what is the av ailability of this paper?

2. Does anyone know where I can obtain a wooden spring style contact print fram e? Once in a while one will appear on e-bay, but you might think it's the Crown Jewels...they bid far above what it's worth!

Sean Billy Bob Boy yates
3-Oct-1999, 17:24
I find the quality of Azo hard to describe. It's one of those things which some people are ecstatic about and others say , "Eh..." (it helps if you sort of shrug your shoulders and open your hands a little when you say that). It used to split tone magically in selenium and that was one of the reasons I started using it.

Go to www.michaelandpaula.com and look under the writings icon. Everything you need to know about Azo is there. Also check out the tech talk icon.

It is quite slow and I print using a 300 or 150 watt reflector flood light bulb commonly available at any hardware store about 6 feet from the easel.

I have purchased Azo from Calumet www.calumetphoto.com and Abbey camera in Philadelphia. Abbey is on line too but I can't recall their URL at the moment. Lastly a store in Philly, Mid City Camera carries it. Call 1-215-735-4096 and ask for Lloyd.

I don't use the split-back frames, although I own a few. They're kind of a pain as you have to fudge with the position of the paper and the negative to get 'em perfectly lined up and some of 'em are tight enough that you can't get your fingers in. If you're going to print 4 X 5 negs centered on an 8 X 10 sheet, this could really be a problem. How do you feel about tape?

Also, it's easier to clean the dust off the glass and negative on the newer kind. The more recent proofing frames, a foam pad and a thick piece of glass hinged to a plastic base, made by Patterson and Premier and others, is easier to use and you get the full frame - no white borders around the images edge. I got mine from a yard sale.

They are designed to take 35mm strips, 120 roll and so on, so avoid the ones with the convenient positioning tabs or channels for the smaller formats. A clear piece of acetate like from an overhead projector sandwiched in between the glass and negative can help you avoid Newton's rings. I haven't had that occur with Azo yet though, only glossy RC.

Good Luck and enjoy

Sean Billy Bob Boy yates
3-Oct-1999, 17:52
you can reach Abbey Camera at www.abbeycamera.com. Currently they list Azo in grades 2 & 3 only, in 100 & 500 sheet boxes. They want $269.00 for the 500 count.

I neglected to mention that right now 2 & 3 is about all that is available unless you luck into an old dusty box of Grade 4 like I did. Apparently it keeps forever.

james norman
3-Oct-1999, 18:25
azo is designed specifically for contact printing, and is the contact paper of choice for the historic american building survey (HABS) and historic american engineering record (HAER) photographers, jack boucher and jet lowe. the azo is a single-weight paper, but i don't think it is a chloro-bromide paper, since the LOC HABS/HAER specs indicate that they do not accept warm-toned papers. the azo contact prints are always ferrotyped. i have used azo in this manner, but i still prefer an air-dried glossy-surface double-weight enlarging paper for my contacts.

james norman
3-Oct-1999, 22:16
i would add that, for display purposes, i think the most beautiful contact prints i ever saw were platinum toned 4x5 images on 5x7 pieces of century POP. i have also seen some extremely fine 4x5 contacts on selenium-toned agfa portriga, a very nice warm-tone chloro-bromide paper - an extrordinary tonal range and a much easier process than platium. you might also consider stepping back in time a bit and using an albumen paper - beautiful and rich tonality. double-matting (natural white 100%rag museum board) and a larger frame size helps offset and highlight smaller contact print images.

Todd Frederick
4-Oct-1999, 00:03
I am not going to respond to each of your fine comments and suggestions since I will make a hard copy and use the information. Thank you so much.

I apprciate your suggestions, and let me give you a bit of where "I'm comin' from"... maybe someone can realate to this.

I do all the high-tech stuff, as most of us do. This project with my converted 4x5 Speed Graphic is a bit of a "retro" thing with me...I want to photograph good subjects, of course, but I also want to employ quality printing processes and to experiment, or "play" with, some "antique" methods. I'm open to anything...even platinum/palladium printing.

I'm separtating two methods...what I "hafta do" on a day by day basis with modern equipment, and what I want to do with traditional methods and materials. I rebuilt this Speed Graphic camera from box up...literally...and I want to have real fun with it in a very "classic" way...I've done much 4x5 in the past, but I want to do this in a much more contemplative, methodical, deliberate, and well- thought-through manner. So often we are too fast in what we do...rushed...I just want to slow down, see carefully, enjoy a nice picnic lunch, be with friends, and be happy with 5 or 6 exposures per outing, and make very careful, jewel like, contact prints. I don't care who likes them as long as I do! I don't want a $3K view camera and lens...to show-off! I made this camera, (with an old, mint Rodenstock 127mm Polaroid lens), and that's important to me. "I" built it! I want to try traditional (antique methods)...and so on. Do I make any sense here? This is not a "tech" thing!...it's very personal and very...well, I don't have the words for it! I'm just seeking suggestions to maximize my efforts.

Thank you.

Your ideas are truly helpful.


Todd Frederick
4-Oct-1999, 00:14
PS...I was given an unopened box of truly ancient Kodak Azo paper. I'm tempted to underexpose a few sheets of Tri-X just to give it a try! maybe a weak developer or Selectol Soft, might do the job!


Todd Frederick
4-Oct-1999, 00:16
PS...I was given an unopened box of truly ancient Kodak Azo paper. I'm tempted to underexpose a few sheets of Tri-X just to give it a try! maybe a weak developer or Selectol Soft, might do the job! Also, I was told that a very tight contact between paper and film is needed for a good image. Are common proofing print frames ok for this?


Todd Frederick
4-Oct-1999, 00:25
I'm sorry...I'm tired and need some sleep!...not thinking right.

I meant to say I received a box of 500 sheets of #5 Azo paper...very old but still good. I also think this is "silver chloride" not colro- bromide"...is that right? I can't find any listed in any of the big company ads (like B&H), but I will check out your website suggestions...very expensive but might be worth it if the results are top-notch. Any developer suggestions?

Thank you and have a good night.


Chad Jarvis
4-Oct-1999, 08:11
1. Silver chloride paper is printing-out paper, not developing-out paper, thus you do not need to use a developer with it. If you are really, really interested in silver chloride (or albumen or salted papers or POP), check out Chicago Albumen Works' Centennial. Excellent stuff. It doesn't need to be developed out, but it should be toned.

2. I bought an 11x14 contact print frame made of ash (as in baseball bat wood) from Bostick & Sullivan. It is very well constructed. They market them under the name Ziaframe.

pat j. krentz
5-Oct-1999, 01:29
Todd, how are you? This is right up my alley, e me and we can talk. Pat