Back in the day of dye transfer, photography was a trade taught in the US Miitary as well as private trade schools, many of which gladly accepted GI Bill tuition payments.
Large labs, processing hundreds of prints a week, divided the work into skill layers. As someone improved they were assigned to other tasks. Prove yourself often enough and you will have made it to a secure will paid career.
jobs. skills. steps
load film, clean, mop
mix chemcials for lab
manage dyes and do rollup
The last task is key to the final result: rollup. This is primarily autographic; skill of hand, eye, timing with feedback. All the previous steps come together well, or the print fails.
Most of those who fail at dye transfer do so because they lack courage. They make the task harder than it is. Not even rollup is difficult, just needing attention.
Anyone who can teach dye, can teach anyone who can learn, in about 45 hours. This assumes you can get film in and out of a camera, and in and out of chemicals.
The hardest part about dye transfer was those who sold their weekend teaching skills to timid camera counter conversationalists.
Kodak’s Frank McLaughlin used to take people through the steps over the telephone. That’s how hard it was.
Kodak Azo was discontinued in 2005. It was in production longer than Kodak Dye Transfer products. Monochrome outlived color. Just a tiny part of the tale.
Texture Sheen Tint Contrast
Azo came in most surfaces and weights; it was used widely because it was cheap and constant across so many types of surface. Deckle edged postcards, cheap studio proofs, or retouching prints for advertising agency work — all could be done on Azo.
Amidol was also easy to buy during that day. Drugstores sold it in glass tubes, ready for processing film or paper. Only Kodak’s Vitava Opal came in more configurations.
When a favorite paper drops dead what are members of the Silver Circle to do? Make it themself or sponsor someone else to make some.
Smith & Chamlee, of the workshop world, chose the latter. Other workers gladly coat small runs learned while workshopping their craft sense at places like George Eastman, and Photographers Formulary. Chloride papers are easy enough to coat, but clearly this is small scale demand, which isn’t a problem for people who hold to their belief that the longer something takes to do the better it is. Self coaters are the slow dry painters of photography.
A new company and identity was introduced in response to the Kodak discontinuation of Azo. Photographers Michal Smith (MAS) and Paula Chamlee bought much of the Azo stock, going so far as being the last Kodak dealer for its sale. As demand dropped for all photo papers, Kodak, in trouble, dropped its black and white darkroom papers. Smith and Chamlee sought a producer of a replacement paper suited to contact printing – their preferred mode of print production.
Constructing the details of these progressions hasn’t been straightforward. I’ve collected posts from multiple web sources – some of which had to be retrieved from archived crawls. The posts on Photrio (nee Apug) and Large Format (LFPF) remain available (10/17).
Azo paper goes well in amidol developer; so much so that several onliners preach that you can only achieve nirvana when both are present. I’m a heathen. Amidol is nice, but not exclusively so, but then, azo (chloride) paper isn’t perfection in silver. They are just what they are: one way across the field.
Kodak, in their azo publication, indicated developing in Dektol 1:2 for 1 minute; that would have been the conventional processing for azo the last 20 years of its production and use. Graded paper can be “contrast” adjusted using divided, 2 tray, developing. Amidol is so active that a water bath suffices as the ‘other’ developer. I prefer using dektol 1:1 and an accelerator as the second tray.
I use amidol and have used lodima paper although my current contact paper is Adox Lupex – has been since April, 2016. Lodima, the paper and the company, don’t provide me any advantage over Lupex. In my procedures Lupex even liths. It also handles wet life better than lodima. Lodima comes in more grades, but Smith Chamlee cannot keep it stocked in grade and size offered on their price list which seems to be updated irregularly. In short, as business, Lodima paper is the sideline of Smith Chamlee workshopping business.
Michael Smith draws much fire from online fora – LFPF as example. That would usually earn him points on my card, however, what I see his success, his contribution to my community of photographers to be is: publishing. I’ve met him twice in 30 years, and only corresponded with him twice – once when I ordered paper he didn’t have; the other time was a request for confirmation about work he may have made. The business conversation went better.
Smith Chamlee have survived the years since Asilomar ’75 by selling simple solutions to the easily influenced junior photographers. He is a businessman who has succeeded by turning his life into a tax deduction. His contribution to artists is as a book publisher, and paper vendor to a few of the lesser imagists of the past 20 years.