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Thread: What films and film developers does Paul Caponigro use?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    San Francisco

    What films and film developers does Paul Caponigro use?

    I'm currently really interested in Paul Caponigro's work and I'm curious about what sort of film/developer combinations he has used. I understand he uses all kinds of different papers and paper developers to get the precise look he is after in his prints, but after looking all over the internet I couldn't find any mention of film developers.

    I'm trying to delve into the subtleties of b&w tonality I think his prints show a kind of mastery over print tone that is really remarkable.

    Anybody have any ideas?

  2. #2

    Re: What films and film developers does Paul Caponigro use?

    Why don't you call him? He is listed in Cushing.

    On the other hand, if you have good work, it does not really matter. Just do your work with good materials.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Aug 2001
    SF Bay Area

    Re: What films and film developers does Paul Caponigro use?

    Stephen, I think what you are responding to may have more to do with Paul's printing technique, and less with his film and developer choice. He is a master printer, who combines developers and toners to get the look he wants for a particular subject.

    When I met him in 1959, he was printing on Kodak Medalist paper, and may have been using FG-7 as a film developer. Medalist is long gone, and most likely the film he was using has also disappeared. However, he has continued to turn out beautiful prints with the available materials. Also, many of his prints involved the Polaroid process.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Mar 2002
    now in Tucson, AZ

    Re: What films and film developers does Paul Caponigro use?

    One place that Caponigro talks about his technique is in the book "Landscape: Theory", published by Ralph Gibson's Lustrum Press about 25 years ago. There he mentions using Kodak HC-110, but I agree with the post above that it's more in the printmaking than in the actual materials used. I'd highly recommend that book for anyone on this forum; it's long o/p but can easily be found through the on-line used book sellers.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Silver Spring, MD

    Re: What films and film developers does Paul Caponigro use?

    If your goal is to produce work like Paul Caponigo's (a lofty goal!), it will not be enough to use the same materials as his.

    To elaborate on Caroline's post, there are many excellent films, papers and developers to choose from. Pick a combination and start refining your vision and technique. Look at the work of as many photographers as you can - originals, not reproductions. This will help you learn what good photography, in your mind's eye, looks like. With time and patience, you can do the work and learn what it takes to make your materials perform the way you wish.

    That's the path we're all on, or should be. Good luck.

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    New York City

    Re: What films and film developers does Paul Caponigro use?

    The question has become whether or not it is "ok" to want to know what films and developers Caponigro has used. Well of course it is. All of these techniques become part of your tool box. They can increase the depth of your understanding. There is a visual language and there is also a technical language. Photography is completely a visual medium so to say that these mundane technical things don't and shouldn't matter is just wrong.

    Not everyone wants to sit around and philosophize about every shadow or about what the photographer had for breakfast. For some people, given where they are at in their own artistic lives, the knowledge about films and developers will inform them in some important way. That also holds true even if the original photographer in question, in this case Caponigro didn't necessarily think it was important for him when he made the photos.

    It's like saying that you shouldn't read Shakespeare if you want to be a writer. To analyze his use of language and how he makes his sentences, to look behind the curtain, is somehow wrong and in fact self destructive. The fact is that in photography everything that affects the "look" of the photo becomes part of the visual language of that photo. The film and developer question isn't comparable to whether Shakespeare used a goose quill or a swan quill. It is comparable however to how he actually wove his words and sentences into ideas and emotions.

    Live a little. Cheers all.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Calgary, AB Canada

    Re: What films and film developers does Paul Caponigro use?

    Well said Steven.
    Eric Rose

    I don't play the piano, I don't have a beard and I listen to AC/DC in the darkroom. I have no hope as a photographer.

  8. #8
    David Vickery
    Join Date
    Oct 1998
    Texas, USA

    Re: What films and film developers does Paul Caponigro use?

    Like Eric, I agree with Steven. For most of us, film is still the starting point, especially with black and white photography, and to understand how a master works in any craft it is a good idea to start at the beginning.
    Sudek ambled across my mind one day and took his picture. Only he knows where it is.
    David Vickery

  9. #9

    Join Date
    Aug 2006

    Re: What films and film developers does Paul Caponigro use?

    I suggest like a previous poster that you get the 1980 Lustrum Press book “Landscape Theory” ISBN 0-912810-32-7. I also have kept the article “How They Work” three master printers and their assistants, taken from the December 1982 edition of Popular Photography which recounts Warren Hanford’s experiences working for Paul. It also quotes Paul on his printing technique.

    “There are no formulas, I’m not interested in formulas, I’m interested in discovery”

    Here is another snippet from the article.

    “Caponigro is an intuitive printer and keeps no records at all of exposure or printing information, each time he enters the darkroom he begins afresh”.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Jan 2001

    Re: What films and film developers does Paul Caponigro use?

    Fp-4, Hc-110
    Wilhelm (Sarasota)

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