For a while, I have been intrigued by a family photograph of my wife’s great uncle (Croce Cappellino, known to the family as “Uncle Priest”, since he was a priest). The photo looks like a formal, sepia-toned studio portrait. It was most likely shot on a 5×7 camera and the negative contact printed, as the film holder markings are visible on the edges. When I got my own large format, 4×5 camera I knew I wanted to make portraits like this, but I wasn’t sure exactly how to begin.
I recently learned about the Finnish studio, Cahute, shooting Harman Direct Positive paper and developing it in caffenol. Although they are shooting 8×10, the look intrigued me as well as the opportunity to create single, unique images. Other options I was thinking about were Van Dyke brown prints and lith prints. I already do a fair number of lith contact prints and I am still working out a light source for the Van Dyke brown. I may come back to both of those at some point though.
My goal is to take a few portraits each session and allow the subject to keep the best one. I will keep the next best one and archive them all in a Paperchase photo album, with some notes about the person and the session.
Here is the caffenol recipe I am using, Google-translated from the original French.
Add to 100 ml lukewarm water in a measuring cup:
1. Na2CO3 20g (80g / l), wait for complete dissolution then
2. Ascorbic acid ~ 1g (4 g / l) [1/2 teaspoon], mix well … then
3. 10g soluble coffee (40 g / l), mix well.
• Add cold water up to 250 ml, mix.
• Measure the temperature of the mixture and record it, this allows to know the effect of the temperature on the prints. With my protocol, the temperature was between 20 and 23 ° C and I had no problem so far.