Solarisation Printing, First Attempt

Solarisation Printing, First Attempt

Man Ray made solarisation printing famous. I’ve been meaning to give it a try in the darkroom for some time now, but never got around to attempting it until last night. Let me tell you, it’s not as easy as it sounds. I wasted about four good sheets of film paper until I got one that I was somewhat satisfied with. That is the shot you see here.

Essentially, you start a print as you normally would – use an enlarger to filter light through your negative onto film paper. Then, typically you’d put that sheet of paper into the developer, then the stop bath, then the fixer, and finally you’d rinse it. HOWEVER, with solarisation printing, you start developing the paper and as the image starts to appear you take it out of the developer and into some water. Then, you expose it to light. ( Remember, this all happens under those red lights in the darkroom ). To do this, I just turned on the bright overhead lights for about one full second. After that, you toss the paper back into the developer for another 20-30 seconds or so. From there, you proceed as normal with the stop, fixer, and rinsing. I’m pretty happy with the results, although I’ll probably experiment with this style of printing with cheaper film paper in the future. My 11×14 Ilford paper is too precious! Does anyone out there have any tips for me concerning solarisation printing? I’d love to hear your thoughts : )

Lastly, I don’t have a large flatbed scanner, so this image here has been cropped a bit. Also, I accidentally had the negative flipped upside down in the enlarger, so this image has been inverted from the original. After I realized my mistake, I printed several proper copies ( not solarised ).  To see the original photo that was taken with a Canon AE-1 on Efke Aura infrared film, click here. This solarised photo was personally printed in the darkroom with Dektol. © Patrick Bresnahan


12 thoughts on “Solarisation Printing, First Attempt

    • Thank you! I think experimentation is a great reason to get into film photography. There’s SOOOO much to learn how to do. I’m really eager to try out different styles of darkroom printing – cyanotype, lith printing, etc.

    • Yeah, it’s pretty tricky. I feel it takes a lot of experimentation to try and find the perfect timing. I’ll probably give it another shot in the near future ~

  1. This brings me back to when I first started platinum printing. The best advice till you get it nailed down, is run just as you said, with cheap film and paper. Now you’re on it, stay on it till you’ve got it nailed down.

  2. Oh, man this takes me back. This was one of my favorite projects in school — such a challenge! I used to hog up a darkroom after classes, just spent hours working on this stuff. Wish I could find those prints.

    • It is quite a challenge! I’d never done it before, and it seems like you have the get the second exposure time just right in order to get a decent print. The first two or three I tried came out too dark. This one here was a bit better, but I still think there’s room for improvement. Anyhow, I really enjoyed trying something new and doing some darkroom experimentation. I’ll most likely be giving it another shot in the near future. I hope you track down those old prints! I bet they’d bring back good memories : )

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