Chemigrams and Caffenol
Experimenting with home made developers
Here we invite you to mix your own developers made from everyday household ingredients including coffee, vitamin C, and soda crystals - along with plant material for Phytograms. Coffee based developers are also known as Caffenol - these developers can be used for developing both prints and film, although we are concentrating on making prints on paper and sheet film as we don't assume everyone has access to developing tanks. Do have a try and share your results with us via email or social media!
Chemigram, Caffenol and Phytogram presentation by Sophie Sherwood
Chemigram, Caffenol and Phytogram FAQs
What is used as developer for chemigrams? Is it the saline solution?
No - the caffenol (coffee based) or plant based material in soda crystals and vitamin C is used as developer. Saline solution can be used as a fix, but it takes longer than darkroom fix. Urine has also been used as a fix, but we’re not demonstrating that!
Is caffenol used as a developer?
Yes - it is made using coffee - see our resources for the recipe, and it will be a dark brown solution. You can use it to develop paper or film.
Would you take the print through several runs of developer and fix to make the process more interesting?
Yes you can experiment with layering the different processes, and using resist materials such as vaseline, masking tape or sellotape to prevent different areas of the print from being developed or fixed.
How do you fix an image using the saline solution?
You make up a concentrated solution by dissolving as much salt as you can in warm water by stirring it in slowly until no more will dissolve. Table salt is fine but sea salt will do the same thing. Then place your print into the solution and agitate - the print may need to soak in the solution for a day or two to make sure it is no longer sensitive to light. You can't really over fix the image but do wash it afterwards. The saline solution can't re reused, it's best to make up fresh each time.
Can you re-use the fixer?
The saline solution as detailed above can't re reused, it's best to make up fresh each time. However if you are using darkroom fixer, dilute according to manufacturer's instructions and store in an airtight bottle. This can be re-used several times.
Can you use petals as well as leaves to make chemigram developer?
We only used leaves, but it would be interesting to try petals from different flowers. Have a go and find out!
Do you have to lay the materials on the darkroom paper in a darkroom?
No, all the processes we have described can be done in light.
Can you combine the cyanotype and phytogram process?
Yes, we think Dan Hererra has done this and maybe some of the other artists we have mentioned. You could try coating photographic paper with a cyanotype mixture, drying it then exposing and using further developers. Or you could try coating photographic paper with cyanotype solution and exposing it while wet - or painting the cyanotype solution on afterwards. If you have any of the cyanotype paper from our materials packs, try that with caffenol, chemigram or phytogram developer. To make your own cyanotype paper you will need ammonium ferric citrate and potassium ferricyanide, you can buy these chemicals online as powders and make up into solution to mix together and coat your paper.
Real Photography Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/realphotographycompany/
Sophie Sherwood: http://www.sophiesherwood.co.uk/
Pierre Cordier: http://www.pierrecordier.com/
Elizabeth Woodger: https://elizabethwoodger.com/
Hannah Fletcher: https://www.hannahfletcher.com/
Pete Webb: https://www.instagram.com/photopete11/
Karel Doing: https://kareldoing.net/
Dan Herrera: https://www.instagram.com/danherrerastudio/?hl=en
Caffenol recipe: https://www.caffenol.org/2010/03/12/the-delta-recipe/
Phytogram recipe: https://phytogram.blog/recipe/