Printing the Life-cast Self portraits
The printing goes through 3 stages. Each stage can take several days to complete:
1 – many small prints (image 12½ x 10 cm onto 7 x 5 inch paper). In which I experiment with different contrasts, exposure times and length of time in the bleach.
2 –medium sized prints where I start to ‘distil' what I discovered in the first stage. I'll experiment also with some dodging, burning in , split grading etc at this stage.
3 – full-sized final prints (image 400 x 320 cm onto 16 x 20 inch paper) Again I take the information I learned from the results of the previous stage and work to produce the final full sized prints through the same process of experimentation.
The bath used for reduction comes from two stock solutions : 0.4% potassium permanganate, and 10% sulphuric acid. Generally I use 200ml of the potassium permanganate with 20ml of the sulphuric acid made up to one litre.
Each of the above stages follows the same sequence:
- Exposing the paper (fibre based)
- Develop, stop and two-bath fixing
- Wash for 10 minutes
- Hypo-clearing (ammonia + hydrogen peroxide solution) followed by wash
- Approx 10 second immersion in 1+9 selenium toner followed by wash.
- a quick squeegee dry and Bleaching
- Print cleared in sodium sulphite solution.
- Extended wash
I plan the images to come out of the developer darker than I want the final result as the bleach will considerably lighten them.
The 10 second immersion in the selenium ‘fixes' the brightest high-lights in the print which would rapidly be bleached out otherwise, and stops the print becoming ‘scrubby'.
The bleach is quite opaque. I usually bleach under a blue daylight bulb. This pierces through this opaqueness a little better than a normal bulb.
The print and the bath can either be kept immobile, or agitated in various ways. Rubbing and/or dabbing the print can increase the mottling by, I think, heating up parts of the print and speeding up the bleaching in those parts.
The prints need to be removed rapidly for inspection as the process progresses. The print can be replaced, or rinsed before being replaced – this affects the results.
The prints are stained quite dark by the process making it a little tricky to evaluate.
When the print is ready I rinse the print and leave it in the sulphite solution – this clears the print rapidly.