Tuesday, September 29, 2009

3 Is The Loneliest #

Sure, everyone lamented long and hard over the demise of Polaroid and Kodachrome- but not one single tear was shed Mr. Spotone's way. Yet how many fiber based B&W prints would've hung on gallery walls without him? And there above lies one of the last remaining bottles of Spotone in photographic history- and it's mine! The liquid that has since come out to replace it (different manufacturer) supposedly sucks, but I'm hardly in a celebratory mood since I no longer have a darkroom.

For you digital young bloods- any B&W printer worth his salt could be seen with a #00 or #000 brush (yes, we were all pointillists back in the day) in one hand, and print in the other along with a bottle of #3 (the anally inclined could also mix it with #1 or #2 to make it warmer or cooler to match the color temp of the specific papers, particularly for a large spotting/retouch job). You'd place brush in liquid, work off the excess, then dab your tongue with it to get the appropriate density that matched the area you were going to spot.

I mention the latter because it was none other than Alex Harsley, who himself had suffered significant ill effects from prolonged darkroom exposure, that brought to my attention that one of Spotones's key ingredients was none other than a particular form of cyanide! I gave him a look upon hearing that one- he returned one better.


Bill said...

Oh, poor #3. You will be missed. Folks used to look at me funny because of the tongue dab. It was crucial. A photo teacher once taught me--and this was the method I continued to use for years--to dilute the spotone with... spit. Sorry folks. Gross but true. A bit o' spit in that #3 cap and you were good to go. Of course you still had to lick it.

Tyler Hewitt said...

I've got a bottle of good old #3 squirreled away as well. Never learned the tongue dab method, however. I learned to spot using dried Spotone. A few drops of Spotone left to dry on a plastic coffee can lid would spot several dozen prints. You wet your brush, then remove most of the water by brushing it on your sleeve, leaving a brush that is barely damp. Then, use that damp brush to pick up a bit of the dry Spotone, and you're ready to spot. It is much easier than using wet Spotone. I'd been spotting that way for years before actually reading the instructions on a bottle and realizing that's not how it is usually done.

Lisa said...

I still have a box of all 3 Spotone colors. Like Tyler also learned the dried Spotone method, I have a white paint tray with various mixes of #1, #2, and #3 in dried splotches....and yes, I used to wet the tip of my brush with my tongue.

I wonder if Marshall's colors are still around? I have a box of them as well....used to use a #0000 white sable brush to retouch my color work.