About Black+White Photography vs. Color

“Color (in a photograph) would get in the way of what I thought was important -- so I got rid of it”. -Milton

Milton by Diane Bush
Milton in the darkroom. Photo © Diane Bush, c.1982

About This Resource

Much of the information comes from the excellent 2004 interview with Milton by photographer and family friend Robert Hirsch.

Designer Ed Ott wrote for this website section about Milton’s darkroom techniques as well as photographed his charts, formulas and tools that hung on the darkroom walls.

Thanks to Marc PoKempner for his beautiful photo of a rollei.

Other information comes from the Melanie Herzog book Milton Rogovin: the Making of a Social Documentary Photographer. Naturally much of the film, paper and other material and equipment has changed over the decades.

Any information that you can add to this list is appreciated. Contact Mark.

Equipment

Cameras:
Zeiss Ikonta A.
Twin Lens Rolleiflex
Hasselblad

Light meter: Weston (hand held)

Flash: Sunpak auto 120J professional (bare-bulb strobe)
In the early years of using the bare bulb flash Milton may have been a Graflex strobe.

Tripod: Linhof
Except when there was a lot of motion like in the Storefront Church series, Milton always used his tripod.

Enlarger: Omega D (4x5)

Materials

Film: Kodak Professional Tri-X
12 exposures per roll, negative size, 2 ¼ in.x 2 ¼ in, Black/White

Film Developer: Edwal FG-7

Paper: Kodak Medalist 3 (8x10, Black and White)

“When that paper was discontinued I switched to Kodak Elite 3 (fixed contrast) using a twin developer chemistry by Beers.” - Milton

Kodak no longer makes any Black and White darkroom printing paper.

Toner: Kodak Rapid Selenium Toner

Cameras, Film and Darkroom Equipment used by Milton Rogovin

Footage from 1988 film by David Knaus. Milton Rogovin Collection, Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona, Tucson

The Cameras

rollei

Click to enlarge.
Photo by Marc PoKempner.

During my father’s three years in WW2 he had a used Zeiss Ikonta A.

Twin Lens Rolleiflex: Starting in the 50's the used Rolleiflex that Milton used most often had no light meter, possibly the TLR Type 2. The other Rolleiflex that he used had a built in light meter: (DBP  3.5F 281 5236  DBGM).

Hasselblad (unknown model) with 150 millimeter telephoto lens:
Milton purchased a new Hasselblad and used it in the Storefront Churches series and for a brief time during photographing of the Lower West Side series.

“At first I used a Hasselblad, alternating it with an old twin-lens Rolleiflex. But during my first week in the neighborhood a fellow approached me and asked me what the camera was worth (referring to the rather sophisticated Hasselblad). The next week, I had two additional inquiries as to the cost of the Hasselblad. By then I had gotten the message. I sold the Hasselblad and no one ever asked me the cost of my old Rolleiflex.”

Darkroom Processes and Techniques

Click on images to view larger.

The Beers Formula
This is a unique (and caustic) development formula to “print the highlights and develop the shadow areas”. Ansel Adams was a big believer of this method - I think Milton used this to better control the shadow areas without losing highlights on difficult negatives.

Click here to read more about the Beers Formula (PDF Download) »

For Toning Prints
This formula was for toning Milton's prints. It hung on the darkroom wall along side the Beers Formula. While toning is a nice effect that enhances the mood or impression, from subtle to extra-ordinary on black and white photos it, more importantly, extends the life of the print image during display or storage. Toning converts the black and white silver image to an inert compound, which reduces the harmful effects of intense light, ultraviolet radiation, oxidizing gases, extremes of temperatures, humidity and fumes. With toners you could also enhance the maximum density in the image with little or no change in the tone.

Click here to read more about toning prints and use of Kodak Rapid Selenium Toner (PDF Download) »

Burning Tool or Ruby Burning Mask
This "tool" allowed Milton to give extra exposure to areas of the print that needed enhancement during the printing procedure.

The Ruby Red Mask is a burning tool (approx. 7x12 in.) used by lining up a chosen shape on the rotating disc over a quarter-size hole in the ruby red plastic sheet. The color of the red plastic (rubylith) absorbs light from the enlarger to keep the rest of the print “blind” to the light, except where the hole was. The trick for the photographer is in slightly moving the mask during exposure to avoid any hard edges on the photograph. Note that there was more room on the disc to add other shapes as Milton found the need.

Retouching with Spot Tone
Spot Tones were the black-and-white retouching materials that Milton used. Spotting took practice and understanding of different substrates but Milton mainly worked with Kodak Medalist Papers-doubleweight so he was able to focus down on this substrate for expertise.

Milton's Spotone kit. Click the "Spotone Kit" image to view larger detail.



From Left: Milton's handwritten notes with instructions in brush preparation and spotting; Spot tone charts that hung on Milton's darkroom wall.

Dodging Tools
These simple dodging tools, cotton on telephone wire, were the counter-point to his burning template. Most photographers used a round cutout piece of cardboard at the end of a skewer stick.

The advantage of putting cotton at the end of the wire is that Milton let the wire/cotton combination do most of his work for him: the soft fuzziness of the cotton allowed for dodging without any harsh edges. Also, holding thin wire with the cotton at the other end, allows for the whole tool to “vibrate” just from being hand-held.

Edwal FG7 (Developer)
Milton probably started using Edwal FG 7 developer with a 9% solution of sodium sulphite. This allowed for finest grain on small sized medium and high speed film.

In short, finer grain, aside from the obvious detail enhancements at 8x10, also allowed for bigger prints through the enlarger.


Milton's scale for measuring chemicals:

A few of Milton's developing trays:

Dry and Straighten Photographs

The drying rack or "drying screen" is made of fiberglass.

As important as the rest of the darkroom processes are, the way the prints are dried and straightened is key.

Click the yellow paper above to see Milton’s hand written instructions for straightening his prints.

Milton rack-dried his photographs and then would then flatten them using blotter paper, masonite panels and metal weights on top.