Weston's enlarged negatives

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Many of Edward Weston's best pictures were made with a hand held 3.25x4.25 Graflex. Does anyone know the actual method he used to make his 8x10 negatives from them? Did he contact print the 3x4s and shoot copy negatives with his 8x10? Or did he copy the 3x4 negatives on 8x10 direct positive film? Or....?

-- Bill Mitchell (bmitch@home.com), June 24, 2001


I the Weston exhibits I have seen, his smaller format negatives were all printed contact size. I don't recall reading anything about him enlarging negatives, and since he never owned an enlarger, I'm guessing that he didn't.

-- David Rose (DERose1@msn.com), June 24, 2001.

Have you read the Daybooks? I dont recall if he discusses the method in any detail

-- Wayne (wsteffen@skypoint.com), June 24, 2001.

E. Weston's work was all contact--the graflex negatives were exhibited same size, just like the 8x10's

-- Carl Weese (cweese@earthlink.net), June 24, 2001.

Bill: According to the photo book "Supreme Instants" there is a section on the use of the 3 1/4 X 4 1/4 Graflex:

"To make 8X10 prints from his 3 1/4 X 4 1/4 Graflex negatives, Edward had first to make enlarged positive tranparencies with his view camera and from them, internegatives. This was a tedious and lengthly task. He noted in his daybook on October 7, 1924: 'I am utterly exhausted tonight after a whole day in the darkroom, making eight contact negatives from enlarged positives.'"


-- Gregory Bates (avalon@bendcable.com), June 24, 2001.

Thanks Greg, that's exactly what I wanted to know.

-- Bill (bmitch@home.com), June 24, 2001.

Yes, from enlarged positives, but does anyone know how the positives made? Did he find someone with an enlarger he could borrow? or is it possible he did this himself? Is it possible to enlarge a 3X4 neg onto 8*10 sheet of film if all you had to do it with was an 8*10 camera?

-- david clark (doclark@yorku.ca), June 24, 2001.

David, I don't know how Weston did it, but this is still a common technique used in duplicating negs in a 2-step process....I don't think there was a direct pos. film at that time, although I could be wrong...he could very well have used an enlarger, and I guess this would open up all sorts of doors for debate...because the interpositive duping technique is usually regerded as the method with more control than the one-step. If all he had was a camera, then he could have just shot the neg. on a light table of sorts, and just made an in-camera dupe, as an interpositive, and then contact printed this onto another sheet for the negative. But, if this were the case, then there'd be a collection of interpositives someplace, maybe??

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), June 24, 2001.

It seems pretty clear from the text Greg quoted: "Edward had first to make enlarged positive tranparencies with his view camera and from them, internegatives." He would shoot the negs with a light source behind them using an 8x10" camera, then contact print the 8x10" interpositive onto another sheet of film to make the negative that would then be contact printed onto paper, most likely using the Azo/Amidol combination that he settled on after some years of platinum printing.

-- David Goldfarb (dgoldfarb@barnard.edu), June 24, 2001.

Although he used Azo (and of course Amidol) he also used Velox, Apex, Convira, Defender Velour Black and Haloid, which was certainly among his favorites.

-- Sean yates (coalandice@yahoo.com), June 25, 2001.

If Cole is still alive has anyone thought of asking him? Pat

-- pat krentz (patwandakrentz@aol.com), June 25, 2001.

here is the weston website, ask away....


-- mark lindsey (lindseygraves@msn.com), June 25, 2001.

Hi everyone, OK I can understand the possibility of taping a 3*4 to a window and photographing it onto film. My question is what kind of lens would you need to do that. His 8*10 is a Korona, and so I'm thinking 30" of bellows. So what kind of lens and how do you use it to enlarge from 3*4 to 8*10? Thanks, David

-- david clark (doclark@yorku.ca), June 25, 2001.

David, you make a good point, which hadn't occured to me. The standard lens for a 3x4 Graflex was a 6 3/8" Tessar design, excellent for copying, which I'm sure could be mounted on the 8x10 for high magnification.

-- Bill (bmitch@home.com), June 25, 2001.

Hi Bill, do you know the math to figure out if the 6" lens will project 3*4 onto 8*10 with 30" of bellows or is this something we have to sit up and test? If he did use this method, it seems like he could have done some fine tuning on the image during this process. I've seen some of the original 3*4 prints in the Weston Archives in the George Eastman House collection. These photos would be like his personal snap shot collection. For instance there is a Graflex contact of Rivera. I've also seen Tina Modotti's photos in the Eastman House, and those are Graflex contact prints, very small photos. So whatever process he was using to enlarge, they weren't carrying on the process to her work and I wonder if this is because it was labor intensive? Best, David

-- david clark (doclark@yorku.ca), June 26, 2001.

David, a 6 3/8 lens on a 30" bellows will give a reproductin ratio of 3.7. My goodness that must have been tricky!

-- Bill (bmitch@home.com), June 26, 2001.

Either lens turned around backwards on the 8X10 would've worked.

-- Jim Galli (jimgalli@sierra.net), June 26, 2001.

Almost, but not quite. A 10" lens with 30" bellows only has a 2X reproduction ratio, about 6.5x8.5". I believe that his shortest lens for the Korona was an 11" Rapid Rectilinear. The enlarged negatives must have been a real pain; wonder why he didn't just buy an enlarger for the 3x4?

-- Bill (bmitch@home.com), June 26, 2001.

Well, my guess is that he had way more time on his hands than he had money. I could see where he could have rented a photographer's darkroom-enlarger to make the positives. That's a possiblity, but he seems like the 'do-it-yourself' kind of guy who would like to be self sufficient. He was the master of elegant solutions to technical problems, and he certainly wasn't affraid of hard work, and that's why it seems to me maybe he did it with materials on hand. I think I read where Modotti had a 4*5, so that could be a factor? Maybe he used a camera as an enlarger? Best, David

-- david clark (doclark@yorku.ca), June 26, 2001.

Hey...I've been following this for awhile and I just wanted to say that people still do make duplicate negs this way more or less....now I'm not sure how Weston made his (and it's not really that important to me), but let me ask you all this question: Where are his original negs? If he were making interpositives of his smaller negs, and then contacting these to make the final negs....then the interpositives would be valuable as well. Generally, the positive becomes the "master" and the duplicate negs become the working negs in this case. The positive is usually alot denser than you'd think...it's rather chunky and would look dark if you viewed it. Now, maybe he didn't do it this way, or maybe he didn't care & threw them all away...who knows? For a long time though, in commercial & portrait photography, this was a regular technique. Nowadays, it seems to be only done in duplicating old glass plates & negs.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), June 26, 2001.

I've been asking the same question for awhile, the best clues I've come across are in an article Edward Weston authored for CAMERA CRAFT published September 1939 titled "Thirty-Five Years of Portraiture". The article is included in Peter Bunnell's "Edward Weston on Photography" - Peregrine Smith Books, 1983.

The article is lengthy, but references his use of enlarged negatives pre-1917 to make 16x20 platinum prints for the London Salon.

A couple of cites - to whet your appetite:

"From the time I left Mexico in 1926 until 1933 all of my professional portraits were made that way..." "I made negatives with a sharp lens on 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 film and enlarged them to 8x10 with the soft lens (a Verito referenced elsewhere in the article), stopped down just short of being sharp. The illusion was complete: the retouching disappeared."

I asked Cole Weston about the enlarged negative process during one of his workshops about two years ago...he said he didn't recall.

Certainly, the running debate about contact vs enlarger quality between Ansel Adams and Edward Weston indicates Weston's decided preference for contact prints for his personal work. As noted, he didn't use an enlarger as we know them.

The book cited above is a great trove of information about his evolution as an artist with many references to his professional portraiture. I'd recommend it to anyone. Fred

-- Fred Leif (Frederickl@aol.com), June 26, 2001.

Hi again, well 1923-33, my guess is the original negs where nitrate. I'm not sure though. If nitrate, they might just be dust in an envolpe some where. Is there a good source article on this process of making positives and interpositives? Thanks, David

-- david clark (doclark@yorku.ca), June 27, 2001.

Hi again, it just occurred to me I was told that back then it was not unusual to use factory prepaired glass plate negatives. If he made the interpositive with glass, it might have been impractical to carry it home to California. David

-- david clark (doclark@yorku.ca), June 27, 2001.

David, I seem to recall reading in a Lustrum Press darkroom book an interview with Cole Weston, where he made some remark about how he & Brett would scrape the emulsion off his dad's old glass plates (from his commercial work) and use the glass to repair windows....haha...so maybe that's where the interpostitives wound up!

Look, he could have done it any number of ways, including just making a contact print of the smaller neg, and then shooting a copy neg of it...There were also direct-positive films back in the late 40's at least, (Kodak Radiograph is one that sounds about right), but I'm just unsure of any earlier times. 1939 was the last date of manufacture for nitrate based sheet film for Kodak. Other manufacturers dates are hard to find, but unless the originals are in some cold storage vault now, they probably are all gone.

My experience duping films has mostly been by contact with the direct positive films, but I am now getting into the 2-step methods, which have been explained to me as being superior in both control & stability. There are numerous documents about this, including the vendor spec sheet for NARA, and several online sites within the museum/archives community. Probably the best how-to book is Kodak's "Copying & Duplicating in B&W and Color" (pub M-1) and "Conservation of Photography" (F-40). Another good book that may be out of print now, is "Collection, Use & Care of Historical Photographs" by the AASLH. And lastly, just about any edition of the old Morgan & Morgan "Photo Lab Handbook". I have one from the 50's and it's a great resource. One of the few commercial labs that does this for institutions is the Chicago Albumen Works. They specialize in duping 19th century plates & negs by 2-step methods. I have done some duping & making internegs of 8x10 CTs, shooting them on a vc down to 4x5. It's not really that hard, once you get the hang of it, and it doesn't require exotic equipment either. It's just a side of photography that's not exactly "fun", more work....

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), June 27, 2001.

Oh hey...one more thing about the Kodak books. They're great resources, because these techniques are solid & don't really change. Unfortunately, several of the films are no longer made that were used most for this. That's where the other sources come in handy, if you decide to try this.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), June 27, 2001.

If it was an 8.25" Verito on the Graflex, and if his Senica viewcamera had a 30" bellows, he could just barely enlarge from 3.25x4.25 to 8x10. (30-8.25)/8.25 = 2.6 Reproduction ratio.

-- Bill (bmitch@home.com), June 27, 2001.

Hi again, in the back of volume I Mexico of The Daybooks of Edward Weston, there is a piece by B. Newhall titled Edward Weston's Technique. There Newhall writes, "To enlarge these negatives (B.N. is refering to 3 1/4 * 4 1/4 Graflex negs.) on platinum or palladium paper was tedious. An enlarged negative had to be made. First an 8*10 inch glass positive was made from a small negative. From this, in turn, he made a new negative, which he printed by contact. Apparently he never printed by projection..."

Of course he doesn't give the method here for making the glass positive. I guess some one has to come up with a list of reasonable ways to make a glass positive. I assume there were holders where you could use a glass negative in a regular 8*10 camera?

Best, David

-- david clark (doclark@yorku.ca), June 27, 2001.

Paul Strand had the same problem since his originals (Before WWI) were shot with a 6x9 Ensign. First he contact printed the negatives onto Lantern Slide glass plates. (Apparently they didn't have enlargers in those days, but they did have Lantern Slide projectors.) Then, after retouching them, he PROJECTED the glass lantern slide positives directly onto 8x10 or 11x15 film, which were subsequently printed by daylight onto Platinum.

-- Bill (bmitch@home.com), June 28, 2001.

I don't know much about the math invovled in enlargement, but. I taped a 4*5 neg to a light table. Using a 9 1/2 lens on a C1 I was able to come very close to full 8*10 enlargement with the lens about a foot from the neg and the bellows extended about 30". So, does anyone know how you go about metering for such a shot? a magnification off a light table that is. Best, David

-- david clark (doclark@yorku.ca), June 28, 2001.

David, a 9.5" lens with 30" bellows extension gives a reproduction ratio of 2.16. (30-9.5)/9.5 = 2.16 large enough to easily make a 4x5 into an 8x10, but not enough for 3.25x4.25. To figure exposure, the Effective aperture is just the marked aperture times the bellows extension divided by the focal length. For example if you're shooting at f:16 -- 16x30/9.5 = 50.5, or about f:50. Personally I use a Horseman behind the lens meter so there's no worry about extension or filter factors, etc. Don't forget to add in reciprocity.

-- Bill (bmitch@home.com), June 29, 2001.

Well, when I've done this with a camera, it's been either 1:1 off a 4x5 or else the other way, 8x10 down to 4x5. Mostly I was making internegs off CTs. With the 8x10s, I taped them to a sheet of white plex, held it vertically, and backlit it with a speedotron head. It's hard to take a meter reading off a ct this way, but one way to do it is to appraoch it just like slide duping. Once you nail the exposure, all images should be the same. You could use a wratten ND filter, 1.0 No. 96. This sort of approximates a gray card reading. I do this on a slide duper, and it works well. What I mostly did was to average the transmitted exposure, and test it on a polaroid. In some cases, I used the 55 P/N for the interneg. Mind you, all this is just down & dirty stuff, but it works.

I avoid internegs like the plague though, I've always hated to make them, but it's only been since we got a slide scanner that I've been able to not do them so much.

When I dupe negs, I do it by contact because the films are so slow. They are about the speed of Azo. I usually just treat it like making a print. But here again, once you get a system in place, you can group negs in batches (density & contrast) and work them through. If you used a regular film, like Plus-X or Delta 100 (seem to be 2 that are recommended), you could shoot them off a light box, or just enlarge onto them easily. It gets tricky when you try to filter out stains, or make other corrections though. Kodak recommends using Tech Pan as the interpositive, and TMX 100 as the working neg. I can't remember the aim points right now, but you can use a densitometer to fine tune all this, and a fairly accurate match of the original negative can be had by someone who knew what they were doing.

Back when labs used long roll contact printers (some still do), I think enlarged negs were more commonplace. We still use a lab that dupes up to 8x10 off our 4x5s for murals. I think they use a stat camera with an illuminated baseboard for this though. I imagine that would be the best for this sort of thing, makes me wish we hadn't of surplused ours now....

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), June 29, 2001.

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