Print Finishing.

The Print… between books and followings: Mortensen or Adams.

William Mortensen (1897 – 1965) was one of the most well known and respected photographers in America in the thirties. Ansel Adams called him ‘the Antichrist’ and wanted him written out of history.

Ansel Easton Adams (February 20, 1902 – April 22, 1984) 

The Print… Adams (outlasted ..)

Print Finishing.. Mortensen (came first)

Should you want to make prints, the Mortensen is overlooked; it shouldn’t be.

The contents, shown below, is why. Much more content.

Adams is about curves and chemistry… in search of a print, whereas Mortensen is about how to retouch, to introduce the hand, while also providing specifics about drying, flattening of the print.

Even though he was there before Adams, we all know Ansel Adams.

Mortensen’s method required the hand. It was all about the final print; what could be done by the individual photographer… using haptic tools in addition to the optics.

Not the Zone System. A tone system.

In "Venus and Vulcan" -- a series of 1934 Camera Craft magazine essays -- Mortensen defended Pictorialism against criticism from the f.64 school and other "straight shooters":

Photography, like any other art, is a form of communication. The artist is not blowing bubbles for his own gratification, but is speaking a language, is telling somebody something. Three corollaries are derived from this proposition.

a. As a language, art fails unless it is clear and unequivocal in saying what it means.
b. Ideas may be communicated, not things.
c. Art expresses itself, as all languages do, in terms of symbols [William Mortensen, "Venus and Vulcan 5 - A Manifesto and a Prophecy," Camera Craft 41, n. 6 (July 1934): 310-12. As quoted in A. D. Coleman, "Conspicuous by His Absence: Concerning the Mysterious Disappearance of William Mortensen" in Coleman, Depth of Field (Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1998).]

Mortensen could draw. Had a larger world to draw from than Ansel’s insulated Carmellows. Limited by his piano, limited by playing to predetermined steps; not the human voice, rather the machine one. Chartable. The Adams universe prevailed since it relied less on human spheres. It is something that can be done on the weekends, alone. All that is needed is money and weekends.

Ansel gave us Coffee Cans and Canned Landscapes. Mortensen… another voice from the past, even though it seems possible that his whisper remains stronger than Ansel and the Newhalls wanted

The digital age is the age of retouching, even more than the chemical age.

Imbibition Notes: Matrix Punch

// Kodak directions were complete. More information was made available in the product datasheet than in the instructional guides. Labs always had access to support from the marketing group. If you were big enough, or persistent, you could talk to the research group well into the 70s; then it changed. The product was on the way out — no one wanted to say. Now, I know that the reason my contacts from the 60s called from home was that the labs weren’t supposed to be talking.

A main Kodak invention for imbibition printing was their film punch. Looks like a very complex paper punch. Not far from wrong, although paper punches aren’t always best for thick sheets of plastic like film.

Pan Matrix sheets came pre-punched to fit the Kodak Transfer table.

An early fight with Kodak was over large rolls of Pan Matrix film. They wouldn’t make it… even though we had many accounts wanting large displays from original color negatives. So, we had to devise the interpositive method — then we had talked to DuPont. And Ansco.

Condax’s patent for registration device and method. April 1945, #2455735

It is the Kodak Blanket, the method used from the first decade of Dye Transfer. The early guides (E-80s) showed its use. This was the time of cut-n-but registration — the form inherited from litho-press plate work. The Condax patent references earlier litho patents.

Kodak’s system for making Dye Transfer prints included large pin system. The film used couldn’t take fine punches; not if you were going to put film off and on many times, such as what happens when making real prints. Theoretical prints could be made by punching glass plates, sadly, real glass plates would snap if you punched them.

A punch for the film + an easel used during exposure + pinned transfer board + a roller for rollup of the mats onto the blank.

This was a standard set of equipment found in commercial and weekend labs. These items went out of production by 1980. From the mid 60s they were specialty items sold through graphic supply houses, not regular camera stores.

In 1968, Adolph Gasser (big San Francisco store) didn’t know about them, nor dye transfer supplies. I worked with them to make my order; standing with them to make the call back to Rochester. A long time ago. It foreshadowed much of what would come to the very small community of dye transfer printers.