Large-scale print production

The production of large-scale photographs was made possible in part because of a Chicago State University Foundation Faculty Research Grant awarded to me in 1981. The initial research phase of the project called for the invention of new equipment or the modification of existing equipment in order to produce both black-and-white and color Cibachrome prints in a consistent systematic manner.

Figure “A” shows the modifications made to the Colortronic drum by myself in order to rotate and handle the large drum. e.g.:  Four handles were strapped and taped onto the drum. Several gear-type bands that were normally utilized on smaller Colortronic print processing drums were taped together onto the large drum.

Fig. A

A variable speed drill (set at 60 rpm) with a Tonka Toy truck ribbed rubber wheel, was utilized to rotate the drum as the wheel made contact with the gear band. The drum was allowed to rotate freely because it sits on two plastic children’s roller skates. The roller skates were mounted (wheels up) onto a fiberglass resin-coated wood frame. Four large 2-in. chemistry lab-type rubber stoppers were mounted to the bottom of the frame to stabilize the unit and to allow water to flow under the unit when washing prints (see fig. 11).

The Colortronic drum was chosen because, once the print is loaded in the drum and the end caps are in place, one can process the print in daylight. This makes it possible to process color Cibachrome print material without working in total darkness.

Figures 1 through 13 show the major steps and procedures in the production of large-scale photographs.

Fig. 1 – Neutralizing static, cleaning and dusting the film and glass carrier, used to prevent film buckling because of long exposures. A mask is used to block the unused portion of the glass.

Fig. 2 – Composing and general focusing of the image. Note the cooling fan, used because of the long exposures with a 500-watt enlarger bulb.

Fig. 3 – Socket and wrench are placed onto an 11/16th nut, which was epoxied and screwed onto the focusing knob.

Fig. 4 – Final sharp focus utilizing the socket wrench with a PVC pipe extension and a focusing scope.

Fig. 5 – Rinsing and pre-wetting the drum so the paper will adhere to the inside walls of the drum.

Fig. 6 – Loading the 32×40-inch paper into the drum.

Fig. 7 – Pouring 16 ounces of temperature-controlled chemistry into the drum. The bucket acts as a stand for the drum. The chemistry does not touch the paper until the drum is moved to a horizontal position.

Fig. 8 – Lifting the drum onto the drum rotator roller skate base. Note the position of one hand on top and the other hand is on the opposite side, on the bottom.

Fig. 9 – Turning on the variable speed drill (set to 60 rpm) to rotate the drum. The electric drill is plugged into a ceiling-mounted socket receptacle with a pull string for on/off.

Fig. 10 – Dumping chemicals out of the drum and positioning the drum on the bucket stand. Steps 7, 8, 9, and 10 are repeated for each processing step (developer, stop, fix, clear).

Fig. 11 – Washing the print inside of the drum as the drum rotates.

Fig. 12 – Using a windshield wiper blade to squeegee the print on an acrylic-covered sheet of wood.

Fig. 13 – Hanging the 32×40-inch print to air dry.

All photographs by Peter Chechopoulos of Mati Maldre processing a print in 1982.