Saturday, 7th July, 2012 / Posted by: Leszek

Evelyn Hofer and the mystery of Dye Transfer Prints

Evelyn Hofer and the mystery of Dye Transfer Prints Image

Little Italy, Mulberry Street, New York 1965 - Galerie m Bochum

In common with many photographers and artists enjoying the PhotoIreland 2012 Festival, we're entranced by the Evelyn Hofer prints currently on show at the Gallery of Photography, especially the 'American' dye transfer prints upstairs. The curious thing is, although production of the materials by Kodak only ceased twenty years ago, in 1991, few photographers know of this process today.

Just a quick explanation so, and some links to resources. We're familiar with dye transfer having dabbled with the process whilst still at college and if anybody is determined enough to want to try if for themselves then we'd be delighted to join them on that journey.

Before digital, a plate camera was used to make a set of three black and white separation negatives using Red, Green & Blue filters. Most practitioners working today use an enlarger to project a 4x5 color transparency onto 3 sheets of B/W film with Red, Green & Blue coloured light. I think that there might be considerable advantage in changing this step to use Photoshop's three channels and then to produce a set of digital negatives using the Piezography digital negative system which we are developing for use, here in our laboratory. 

The three negatives are exposed onto sheets of Matrix Film making positives of the Red, Green and Blue separations.These positives correspond inversely to their primary colors of Cyan, Magenta & Yellow. The positives are the same size as the final print and are made of gelatin coating onto dimensionally stable polyester sheet. The areas that receive more exposure harden more than the highlights so, after exposure, the sheets are washed in hot water which rinses away the unhardened gelatin.

The matrix positives are then placed in their respective dye baths of Cyan, Magenta & Yellow with each matrix absorbing the primary coloured dyes into the gelatin coating. The final dye transfer print is made by placing each matrix in turn onto a sheet of receiving (transfer) paper, using registration pins, and rolling each matrix onto the paper thus allowing the dyes to transfer into the sheet. 
There is some excellent information on the technique on the web with good videos here and here, the last being a little fuzzy and quite technical. There is a detailed manual on making the materials here and, again, we'd be very interested in joining any collaborative effort to bring this beautiful technique to Dublin.
Exhibitions / Fire Fine Art / Fire Printmaking / Photography / PhotoIreland Festival / Piezography / Comments: 1
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