Minamata Processing?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by ericphelps, Jun 22, 2022.

  1. I watched this film recently, an abused opportunity in my opinion, but there were several darkroom scenes where Smith's film wife slid the photo paper into the developer then began rubbing it vigorously with her hands.
    I've never seen, nor can find a description of why this is a good idea or its purpose. I'm certain someone here can explain - Thanks
  2. AJG


    I think it would probably raise the temperature a bit which would make that area darker than it would otherwise be. Is it a good idea? I have my doubts but if Smith's actual wife did this it was presumably at his direction and he was a good printer.
    robert_bowring likes this.
  3. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    I will tell you that using bare hands in the chemical processing cycle does two things. It contaminates across the process well beyond tongs or the old yellow Kodak paper lifters (Never knew what they were called) and also delivers a well developed set of permanently stained fingernails. That from early experience. Can't recall the source, but recall there were some "Artistic Effects" that involved manipulating the paper in developer along with strange development times. Someone might have a better memory!
    robert_bowring likes this.
  4. Thanks AJG, it was the actor playing Smith's wife who did the rubbing, so it was likely the director who had that idea. I doubt either Smith or his wife ever did this, artistic license in the film that should be suspended lol.
  5. Yes there's always some tricks people enjoy getting away with to amaze the bystanders, and though I'm no 'old hand', I've printed a bunch and watched others in the college lab and later and never saw any purposeful contact with the paper beyond very careful treatment.

    But with this film now available I'm sure there's posts on farcebook asking 'how hard should I rub my printing paper while in the developer?'
    Sandy Vongries likes this.
  6. I have heard of this technique. It is supposed to increase the development in the area that is rubbed. I have never tried it so really don’t know if it actually works. I have always thought it was best to keep my hands out of the chemicals. Smith was indeed a good printer and was not above manipulating the print to get what he wanted.
    ericphelps and Sandy Vongries like this.
  7. Yes, I believe I heard about it long ago, and might have done it a few times in the early years.

    Well, maybe before I got tongs.

    I don't remember hearing about stained fingernails.
    I would think as they grow out, the new part wouldn't be stained, but then
    if you keep doing it, probably so.

    How much silver goes into the developer? I assume that is only for the
    developer, assuming you have tongs.
  8. Haven't seen the film, but since Aileen is alive (72) and active in Japan, I would imagine she was consulting on the movie.
  9. Absolutely right. I tried it a few times and never found it terribly effective, not compared to burning-in under the enlarger. Although if you don't have a tray-heater in a cold darkroom it probably gets richer blacks than using freezing cold developer.

    (My personal preference was to use developer about 5 degrees warmer than the 'standard' 68F/20C. This was especially true in later days when the silver content of most paper went down and D-163 was replaced with some weaker swill.)

    WRT carry over. Not an issue if you also dabble your fingers in the stop bath or intermediate rinse water. And don't get me started on print tongs! I never found a single pair that didn't leave scratch marks on the corner of a print, or would inopportunely drop a large print if not pressed together with a gorilla-like grip.
    Wear a latex or silicone surgical glove on your 'wet' hand - it's much better.

  10. Rubbing caused friction that increased the temperature and caused local increases in development. I tried it a few times but never found it to be all that useful.

    As to fingernail staining - I think that was mainly associated with the use of Amidol as a developer.
  11. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    I used strictly Dektol, and the fingernails do grow out when you stop using fingers and switch to tongs.
  12. I've never had black scratch lines on a print from using a surgical-gloved hand Sandy. Print tongs? That's a different story.

    One dry and ungloved hand for positioning paper etc. and one 'wet' gloved hand for processing. That's the way to go.
  13. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Apparently I was more fortunate or became adept with the tongs. Still have them, bare stainless steel, and no scratch problems on the remaining prints from those days.
    robert_bowring likes this.
  14. I’ve been doing this stuff since I was 10 and I am now 84. The technique of rubbing and stroking print paper while in the developer works. I know because I learned this trick from my mentor (long dead). During development, the developer fluid must infuse into the emulsion. The emulsion is silver salts imbedded in gelatin. When the material enters the developer, which is mainly water, the dry gelatin expands, much like a dry sponge plunged into water. This action opens the gelatin structure allowing fluids to enter and percolate about.

    Print paper is developed under a quite bright amber safelight thus one can develop by inspection. There are a plethora of ways to locally retard or accelerate the developing action. Observing that an area is not developing up as desired, we often resorted to rubbing that area vigorously. I did this with bare hand, I almost never wore gloves. This works! I often lifted the print and rubbed underdeveloped areas with my fingers dipped into stock-solution (3X concentrated).

    An explanation: Photo materials absorb the developer, and it goes to work. The developer in situ, in highly exposed areas works quickly thus it exhausts quickly. In the normal scheme of things, agitation accelerates the expelling of spent developer and the influx of fresh. A vigorous rub will quicken this action.

    As to the staining of the hands. I learned early, your hands will not likely stain if you follow though. In other words, your fingers won’t stain if they go with the print into the stop and then the fix and wash.

    I have known many a darkroom worker with stained fingernails (looks unsightly). In all those years, mine never stained and I almost never wore gloves. Stupid me! However, I made it to 84 – black & white and color formulas. No dermatitis ever! Lucky for me. However, I always educated others on the need to dawn protective gear. I managed 7 giant photofinishing labs each handling 20,000 rolls a day. Employees safety and the environment first always.
  15. Thanks Alan, so it works, and was once a method, but now seems to have been dropped at least as found in common knowledge and usage.
  16. Smith was an excellent printer.
    His prints from that time in Japan had a lot of contrast. Perhaps he developed his films harder than usual and he probably used the harder gradations of the paper. He may have made his paper developer more contrasty by raising the dilution. These were typical ways in those days to reach more contrast.
    But it could happen that, for instance, a white face remained too light. You could/can save that print by taking it out of the developer, breathe on it while rubbing it with your fingers or thumb. It works.

    Photographer Dave Heath printed in the same manner. Very strong prints, full of contrast and still with enough information. Not becoming harsh. If you ever have a chance to see the prints from his book A Dialogue with Solitude: they’re amazing. Also in the book this is evident, both the first edition from 1965 and in the reprint from 2000.

    A professional printer I knew had a seperate small tray with stopbath, just to clean his hands after doing this. Stopbath, then water . . .
    ericphelps likes this.
  17. Rubbing the print to darken selective areas during development does indeed work, but I found the effect to be slight. Another method is to float a sponge in a beaker of hot undiluted developer and swab it on areas of the print to be darkened. But generally I prefer to manipulate the tones in the enlarger (burning, dodging, flashing, etc).

    I have always handled wet prints with rubber-tipped print tongs, without damage. Some people are allergic to photochemicals and can't use their fingers.

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