Carbon print paper tissue

In July I attended a stage of carbon print held by Damiano Bianca. The stage has been programmed and structured with him and, for those who’re interested, it is possible to make arrangements for similar courses, individually deciding arguments, duration, modalities and subscription costs.

I took part in course every afternoon for almost a week, in Rome, inside the Damiano Bianca’s perfectly equipped dark room.

First day has been dedicated to a generic introduction of carbon print, followed by a practical demonstration by Damiano with materials he prepared before the lesson. Then he taught an argument per day, deepening the theoretical and practical aspect of each one.

  • enlarged negatives: digital negatives inkjet printed with curves that Damiano developed;
  • paper tissue: choice of pigment, support, gelatine preparation, different coiling techniques, paper drying;
  • transport paper: paper choice, sizing and hardening techniques, drying
  • print: sensitization, drying, exposure, simple transfer, developing phase, finishing touch.

Moreover every day, together with lessons and practices, one or two images were printed, always with materials prepared by Damiano and materials that we prepared the days before. I appreciated all the little skills in preparing every single print component that was the argument of the day, more than familiarizing with procedures and bring some pictures home.

At the end of the stage, one last afternoon has been spent printing with supports prepared during the week.

Pros of the Damiano Bianca’s workshop

Carbon print paper transfert
Damiano Bianca, after detaching paper tissue (left hand) from transport paper (on the botton of the bowl), verifies that transfert and detachment happened the right way.

The course is extremely detailed and precise. Damiano Bianca seems answering to every question, adding considerable and interesting historical digressions.

One of the points that mostly impressed me was the theoretical explanation, a possible and reasonable cause that solved the technical problem as answers, together to empirical attempts or working procedures. This way of teaching allows the application of learn notions together to other print techniques, maybe in different environmental conditions or other materials. I attended Workshops where teachers only showed the procedure it usually followed, without any further explanation than “it works”. When my paper didn’t work, the answer simply was to buy in USA the paper he was using. Damiano Bianca is light-years far away. You do not only attend his carbon print workshop, but rather learn how each element react to a determined technique, how to adapt every single procedure to your own needs, why a standard procedure is working, which are the mechanism hidden behind simple and precise gesture of a good printer.

The extraordinary precision held during the entire course is another impressive point. Every detail has been controlled, from room temperature and humidity to drying and hardening time. Every bath heat is fixed with precision, the mixture is attentively prepared, gestures are proper and precise, all the instruments are the most suitable and practical anyone could ask for. This way, any time there’s an error, there’s also a technical explanation of the problem. Therefore, it can be solved or at least a possible strategy to bypass it can be found. Everything we talked since now is referred to carbon print, but it also allows learning a useful operative way for those who wants to push the limits of the rigor of their own dark room experience of both alternative and traditional techniques.

Carbon transfert
Damiano Bianca starts the development, or developing phase, of the transport paper.

Order and cleanness are essential. Damiano Bianca no-stops cleans instruments, table and the entire dark room. He is extremely attentive to dangerous chemistry, always uses gloves, avoids touching chemistry and doesn’t let chemistry contaminate himself or even the darkroom. This is another negative point of many other printers/teachers, which use chemical substances with excessive confidence, forgetting the real risks that characterize them, risks that they students have too (I’m talking about another personal experience, when during a stage held by an imprudent printer I breath a dusty cloud of uranium salt…).

Eventually, even if it’s not strictly related to the course, I really appreciated the sympathy of Damiano, his generosity and warm welcome that made me feel at home… ups, in my dark room…

Cons of the carbon print stage

Carbon print development
Damiano Bianca controls if the development of the transport print is complete. This happens when the color ends oozing. This case requires a little supplementary time.

The only disadvantage I could underline is the duration of the stage; it is probably too long. Damiano Bianca doesn’t omit anything, doesn’t keep any secret, therefore the information quantity is enormous. After some days, it is hard to follow him, assimilating everything. This is obviously my limit. Damiano on the contrary is patient and pedagogical.

As the arguments and the duration of the workshop can be decided directly with him, I suggest attending no more than two days of course, participating not to a only big course, but some little courses separated by some weeks, in which it is possible to understand in your own dark room the technique he explained. This way, stages can focus on specific arguments, for example one on paper tissue, one on print, one on sizing, etc… Doing this, there’s time to maturate the learned experience and the information Damiano Bianca share can be better appreciated.

Future developments of the Damiano Bianca’s workshop

Washing carbon print
A perfect carbon print during its final wash, when white borders are cleaned from any gelatine or pigment residue.

Participating to numerous short courses allow planning advanced lessons on carbon. A week is not enough to explore all the arguments and variations Damiano knows or he’s working on. We haven’t got time to see many exciting arguments, for example double transfer, fixed photographic paper as transportation paper, a thick mixture with a few pigments to augment the relief effect, different supports as glass or Plexiglas, toning, etc…

The most thrilling technique I wish to try, for example, is the carbon dualtone, obtained overlapping two different layers of colored pigment on paper tissue, to obtain a print where shadows have the color of the lower layer while lights the upper one. I think, something you could loose your sleep over! And I did not considered Damiano Bianca work on carbon quadri-chrome…

Conclusions about the carbon print workshop

Damiano Bianca carbon print course has been an absolutely formative experience that values more than the subscription fee. Experience that not only made me approach this beautiful technique, but also ameliorate many other print techniques.

The best thing is organizing with Damiano to attend short deep courses on specific arguments, to assimilate all the information learn in each lesson and find time to explore advanced carbon print arguments.