IKEA; Your Hand-Processing Resource Center!

From: Ken Paul Rosenthal (email suppressed)
Date: Fri May 23 2008 - 09:14:17 PDT

I've also hand-processed extensively in tubs purchased from IKEA. They have all manner of tubs in size and color. I've used the large, relatively shallow, white one's (approximately 2 feet long x 3 feet wide x 6 inches high).

These tubs were designed for stowing stuff away under your bed. I've found the space under the bed too shallow for hand-processsing, not to mention the lack of running water. But the tubs are ideal for holding 2 gallons, as Robert recommends, of chemistry. The plastic edges are more gentle on the film that metal from a bucket/can, and the comparitively roomier space allows the chemistry to flow more evenly across the film. They even come with lids so you can cover the chemistry overnight.

After some 20 years of processing in 35mm developing cans, I found the tubs incredibly liberating. I was inspired by my two visits to Phil Hoffman's film retreat up in Canada, where we used tubs not quite as large around, but deeper. I found the Ikea tubs more user friendly as I could gently agitate 30 feet film at time in a wider work space.

I must say, the experience was not unlike washing a baby in a (shallow) kitchen sink--a pleasant extension of hand processing as a sort of birthing, from a 'stainless steel womb.' IMPORTANT: You must wear elbow length, industrial grade rubber gloves! Standard length gloves will fill up with chemistry and you will contract contact dermatitus. Most unpleasant.

The joy of working with tubs vs tanks is the tremendous physicality they engender, perhaps even more like kneading bread or clay than cleaning a baby. The film will be rather tender, and hence may still have that 'hand-processed look' by virtue of floating emulsion and rem-jet backing that may settle on the film. But you'll never get sprocket-hole 'thumb-prints' on the film as encouraged by the 'spaghetti method.'

Unless you solarize! And this is why I suggest large, white tubs. As the film is more spread out, more light will hit it, as well as reflect off the bottom. You can suspend a 100w light bulb in a clamp lamp about 3-feet over the film and give it a very quick on/off flick, or even use the ceiling lights in the room. Lastly, the white background let's you more easily judge the degree to which the film has developed in any one particular step.

Like Robert, I too advocate mixing your own chemistry. Purchasing your own ingrediants to mix 2 gallons of chemistery per step from, eg. Photographer's Formulary in Montana is much, much cheaper than using kits. IMPORTANT: Be mindful when mixing chemistry. If the water is warm enough, the powders will disslove, and you won't have to stir so aggressively that the chemistry splashes about. Still you must wear a face shield, especially when mixing the bleach! Be sure to add the sulfuric acid to the water, NOT the other way around. If you add water to acid, it will explode! BLAMO!!! Then YOU will look hand-processed, not your film!

On a final note, please be sure to have good ventilation, and to wear an organic vapors mask. Open tubs mean your face is hovering a couple of feet above highly noxious fumes. Even with the mask, I found myself becoming a bit woozy. In fact, after my last project, I decided to pretty much abandon the hand-processing, and experienced something of a artistic paradigm shift, now working soley in the light-drenched, animate world, sans any image manipulation whatsoever save straight cuts while editing.

Still, hand-processing is spiritually intoxicating. And I thoroughly enjoy dipping into that chemical pool a couple of times each semester to demo for my students.



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