Not too long ago a chemistry lab near me shut down its wet darkroom and I was the lucky recipient of a box of Kodak Kodagraph Projection Paper. I’m not entirely sure what the paper was originally intended for, but the fact that it is A4 size rather than 8×10″ and has the same paper weight and finish as regular photocopier paper implies it was probably for use when copying documents. There’s surprisingly little about the paper online, but the instruction leaflet has an introduction which reads:
This projection-speed, high-contrast (approximately a Grade 3) paper is intended to meet the requirements of projection photocopying in enlargers, process cameras, and specialized microfilm-printing apparatus.
Use regular procedures when projection printing with this paper. This paper is similar in speed to the normal projection speed, black-and-white, general-purpose papers.
I had no idea whether this paper was still good, so I cut a test strip in two, developed one without exposing and developed the other after flashing it to a bright light. As hoped, one strip turned out white, and the other black. So at least the paper “works” and has not been spoiled.
Kodagraph Projection Paper
I then made a test strip from a recent negative (a steam train at Bishop’s Lydeard, taken on a recent trip to Dunster). I had no real idea how to develop this paper (the instruction leaflet listed a bunch of developers I don’t have) but it turned out that my go-to developer Ilford PQ works perfectly in about 90 seconds.
It was quite hard to analyse the test strip. Anyone familiar with darkroom printing will know that the dry-down effect is a thing, but this paper was something else completely. Being only as thick as regular photocopier paper, it went dark and mottled as soon as it got wet, meaning the whites all went grey.
Here’s how the print looks immediately after I hung it up to dry. It was too fragile to squeegee. This is a 8×10″ image on an A4 paper, so there is quite a large margin at one end. You can see where the A4 paper was slightly too big for my 8×10″ tray, and was not exposed to developer.
After drying, the paper base lightened a bit but the paper is still noticeably fogged and mottled. Being very thin paper, it dried quite crinkly and now has permanent creases in it. I should probably dry these prints in a press (but I don’t have one).
It was suggested to me that slight bleaching of the print may remove the fog and lighten the highlights, without adversely affecting the shadow areas. I have no idea whether this print will tolerate bleaching, but I’ll give it a go.
Bleaching has indeed reduced the fog. However, I didn’t do a very good job of it. By doing a few test strips I calculated that this print needed about 30 seconds in the bleach. This thin paper tends to float and it was hard to get it all underwater at the same time. I struggled to get it to submerge evenly, and you can see a large unevenness immediately below the locomotive. I spent so long faffing with it that it also had a bit longer than 30 seconds, and the print is now too pale.
Density can be restored to over-bleached prints either by re-developing or by toning in certain toners. I decided to tone it in sepia to give the picture a vintage feel.
After sepia toning
It’s clear that this paper is not particularly receptive to the action of sepia toner. I would normally expect a warmer colour (such as my Victorian selfie). The toner has worked unevenly and you can see darker areas. Not to mention that this paper doesn’t tolerate getting wet very well, and it has now been soaked and dried three times. You can see the wrinkles in the borders, even after I squashed it onto the scanner glass.
The end result is a mottled, faded, blotchy print on crappy paper which is wrinkled and has become a bit tatty at the edges after being handled with tongs while wet. It actually looks like a genuinely old print, so this is a novelty technique I might use in future.