Some while ago, pre-pandemic certainly, I was given a few boxes of materials by a friend who had decided that as he clearly wasn’t going to resurrect his darkroom again he might as well have a clear out. Long-expired film, photographic papers and chemicals, some opened others sealed, all-in-all a veritable treasure trove.
Much of the film I shot over the next two months as I tested new-to-me cameras. Some of the chemicals were clearly way past their best so these I discarded straight away whilst a few unopened bottles are still in my cellar awaiting investigation. There was a large carrier bag of opened boxes of photographic paper too and as my cellar darkroom was still operational I tested most if not all of these. Some fogged beyond any practical use in the darkroom and some only slightly fogged and therefore usable. The one unopened, still sealed, box remained in my paper store for another day.
That day was yesterday
The paper is Kentmere Art Classic, 9.5×12 inches, with a warm tone ivory tinted emulsion coated on a 240gsm fibre base. I got that from the slip of paper inside the box. It also told me that the paper was around grade two. I wouldn’t be playing with split-grade printing therefore.
The negative I chose was a woodland scene, fairly even toned across the whole of the negative with no large patches of shadow or huge expanses of sky. It was partly a way of keeping it simple but largely I thought the subject would suit a warm tone textured paper. Spoiler: I was right!
An initial test print showed I would be working with relatively long exposure times compared to my recent prints. This initial test also led to a second test strip at 15 second intervals. As I’d hoped the test strips showed that my hunch re the negative was good and that I wouldn’t need any dodging or burning. I decided to make two prints, one at 60 seconds and one at 90. Both turned out very nicely and I loved the tone of the paper and it’s tactile, textural quality. I decided to see if I could buy some more, this was going to be a real favourite.
Long story short? Kentmere discontinued the paper in 2006, and in 2007 their paper making division was acquired by Harman. I won’t be getting any more when this runs out. A shame as I wanted to see what changes fifteen years had made to this lovely paper.
This morning I made a few more prints on this paper and I will post those once they are dried and (oh, irony) scanned. I’m going to hoard it for a while though – or at least until I discover something similar!
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