Inspiration and Recent Results

19th Century Inspiration

As I was imagining ways to move large amounts of motion picture film through continuous immersion baths I had a revelation. I would take giant, horizontal developing darkroom trays and flip them vertically to save 75-80% of the footprint. A horizontal tray becomes a vertical tank. Ingenious I thought! I was excitedly explaining this concept to a colleague, Dan Cordle, in the US. Within a few minutes of our conversation he sent me some photos of a film processing lab in France in the 1890s. They had usurped my idea, but a mere 125 years ago! Okay, so it seems I am re-inventing the wheel, or building a better mouse trap. But this concept allows me to fully immerse the film in a high concentration of salt water for long periods of time to perform the fixing process and thus be 100% nontoxic in the lab. It also opens up the possibility for stand development of the negative (also requiring long immersion times).

Another colleague, John Locke, here in the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema sent me a chapter from The Motion-Picture Cameraman, published in 1927. The chapter discusses aspects of developing the film negative. It offers other means of full immersion processing.  I am excited to be looking at ways to refine, improve upon, or mill pre-existing apparatus for the 21st century. Stay tuned!


Captions of photographs (in order)

  1. 21st century tanks
  2. Caffenol, wash, fix
  3. Rack for winding film (400′ can for scale)
  4. Dip and dunk process
  5. Twelve liters tanks

Early Results

Research to date, May 2019.

Here is presentation I made at Matérialité, esthétique et histoire des techniques : la collection François Lemai comme laboratoire, Université Laval (Québec), in May 2019

I first started looking for processing alternatives in 2015. I had just finished a processing about 800 feet of 16mm in the bathroom of my flat in Montreal. I took numerous precautions to be safe but still found that working with those chemicals in my living space felt unhealthy. I stumbled onto caffenol and the story of Professor Scott Williams at the Rochester Institute of Technology on Ney York. See that story here: caffenol.

Additionally I found a sub-culture photography group that was refining the process for their own personal projects. It’s within that group that I discovered the caffenol cookbook.

With those resources I set out to experiment and see what type of results I could achieve. Here are some of my early results.

Here is a link to some photos of my prototype for vertical tank immersion.

Some still images…

(Added a pinch of salt and got this sepia tinge in that last one)