As Susan was looking into the Mordencage process, there was a possibility to give it a go as the chemicals were made up and the equipment available to try along side her. I had a series of prints from my October shoot, that were left over from my paper tests, both in Fibre based and resin coated papers. This would allow me to see both types of results, in the way the chemicals affected the image surface.
Video showing bleaching and redeveloping of Resin Coated print.
Resin Paper prints bleached and redeveloped.
The process is a post print technique, which unlike Bromoil does not require a particular print density, but rather can be attempted with any print. The process was invented in the 1960’s by Jean-Pierre Sudre, but it is based upon the bleach-etch techniques of Paul Liesegang in the late 19th century.
The process is a cycle of bleaching and developing/redeveloping, that degrades the surface of Fibre or Resin papers, to create a part-negative, part-positive image. If done ‘right’ the emulsion should lift off the paper during the bleaching process which allows manipulation. This is referred to as tendrils, if removed and not reapplied, this can result in parts of the print being ‘missing’. Due to this element breaking away, there can be three distinct phases of the print aesthetic. Part 1: the print prior to commencing the process, part 2: the print during the process (often whilst in the bleach – as the print will dissolve and reappear at various stages), and the final part the resulting print.
The second stage I feel is the most interesting, and as the process after the initial print can be done in the light, this does give the opportunity to video this process. This allows the transient element of the print during the process to be documented. I will look to upload my videos onto the blog to show this in action.
Each paper reacts differently during the process, generally resin based papers change colour and tone, but do not appear to produce the lifting of the emulsion that fibre papers do. The process also depends on the bleach solution used, and the developers too, as the process can have multiple types of print developer to utilise rather than sticking to a single developer as common within the darkroom print process. The time in which I try this, Anne had set up two developers, unfortunately I don’t know the names, one had a brown tone, and the other a black tone. This allowed the prints to have certain areas bleached from one developer and then redeveloped with the other tone.
The process for mordencage is:
First take a dry dark room print and wash it for 3 minutes in the mordencage solution (a mix of copper chloride (10g with 750ml of distilled water), hydrogen peroxide (25ml of 30-35%), glacial acetic acid (50ml), and then with added distilled water to bring up to 1000ml). Once washed, the print is then washed in water for 15mins. This will cause the black areas to start to lift from the paper.
The print is then redeveloped in photographic developer of choice and rinsed thoroughly under running water.
After which there is a second bleach process, in where more of the print emulsion may come loose, this should allow the lifting of sections, which can then be ‘reapplied’ to the print.
The print is then redeveloped. This can be continued in a cycle, however once the print has reached the desired stage, the print is transferred to a stop bath (this would be done after a development stage, rather than bleach).
The print then needs to be washed for at least 30 minutes and should be done gently – ideally in a tray. The print can then be left to dry. There are ways of protecting the print with acrylic sprays (anti-uv and non-yellowing) once completely dry.
Having attempted Mordencage on a few different paper bases, I have come to a few conclusions.
Firstly, some of the resin papers didn’t really do what I was expecting, or at least they did what I expected but not what I had read. Some of the documentation makes it appear as if the ‘tendrils’ would be obtainable with resin paper, with the paper emulsion coming ‘loose’, and being able to be moved around whilst in the solution. However, as I had been told elsewhere, the resin coated paper primarily changed tone in the print area, with some papers having little other noticeable changes.
The Ilford Multigrade pearl, has maintained the same print surface, adopting a yellow tone to the majority of the print, with a few areas where the tones are black and white. There has also been a flattening of the highlights, in both tonal areas. This is interesting as the borders remain unblemished, yet the print has lost all the white highlights.
The Agfa Avitone AP 1-4 paper has reacted in a similar way, however the result is more powerful, with there being a bigger range of tones evident than the Multigrade. The Avitone, also did seem to lift in places, with the shadow detail being lifted when in the bleach and not really returning when redeveloped. The 1st print, is printed darker, and then submerged fully in the bleach. This means that there is an overall lightening, with the shadows being removed completely towards the top. The bottom right corner was then kept out of the bleach, with the rest of the print being curved and the middle submerged with the runoff then cascading down the top left. Some of the elements of the print are still visible, whereas some get lost entirely. Interestingly there is some reaction to the edge of the paper. Although this is the case with some of the earlier prints of the avitone.
The second print has been selectively submerged in the bleach, with the top being most effected, this has caused a streaking effect appearing on the print. There is a slight pattern to the right of print where the surface has been broken down.
The Oriental Seagull G-4 was the first print using Fibre paper, and it worked better than the resin prints that I had been trying. The shadows were sacrificed in the bleach, as they came away from the print, unfortunately I had expected I would be able to manipulate these, but it would appear that this is not as straightforward as suggested. The contrast has been reduced in the midtones, with some areas appearing grey, which combined with the highlights as an off white, and more towards the cream tone, means that the image, which had been quite contrasty as an initial print, is now quite flat. Despite the lack of contrast the change in tone, with the yellow and brown tones alters this, bringing more interest back into the print.
The Multigrade fibre paper, didn’t behave in this way, with little to no ‘tendrils’ of emulsion coming loose, instead it kept the strong contrast, but changed to an almost sepia toned print. There is an area of more silver tones, to offer a separation from the rest of the print. This is interesting as it seems to take on some of the qualities of the resin print, in that it changes colour, but doesn’t break down in the same way as the Oriental paper. The paper wholly changes colour too, not just the print area.
The final paper I tried was Ilford Ilfobrom (Grade 3), and despite being a fibre paper, this acted in a very similar way to the resin prints, changing tone but not breaking down. The same goes for the paper base changing colour, in a similar way as the Ilford fibre paper. There is very little to break this up from a darkroom print, save for a small spot of the brown toned developer. If I come to try the effect again, I would avoid this paper base.
Overall, I didn’t think that there was a connect for myself in the process, and something that I didn’t feel really added anything to the project. Originally, I had thought the process of bleaching then allowing the details to re-emerge would suit the ideas I was going for, but now I am not so sure this is the case.
Video of fibre based paper with Mordencage process