Les Allen

More on Per Volquartz

​During my one week apprenticeship/workshop with Per we covered a lot of ground
technically and artistically. Below is a partial list of the processes and concepts we

The Zone System––Per’s streamline and simplified approach,
In-camera pre-exposure to enhance shadow detail in high-contrast landscape
Composition and,

Timing when it comes to shooting in available light.
One evening we worked in Per’s studio late into the night using strobes and his Sinar P to
photograph a dried banana tree flower he found in his front yard. Per later used his 5 x 7
format image on the home page of his web site. It was a striking photograph of singular
and ordinary found object.

A great amount of time was spent in Per’s darkroom rotary processing film in Pyro and
TF-4 fixer, as well as, learning and putting into practice some of his Per’s printing
methods including: pencil masking, split filtration, water bath treatment and local
bleaching with very dilute potassium ferricyanide. We also covered archival post-
processing procedures such as toning, mounting, and spotting the finished print.
During the last day we even made a Platinum print
Technical information:
Les Allen uses traditional black and white silver based photographic materials and

All film processing and printing is done by Les in his own traditional wet darkroom.
He uses Deardorff cameras in a various of formats and
Schneider Symmar lenses
Some of the materials Les uses include the following:

Tri-X 320 exposed @ iso 250 to: Ilford Delta 100 exposed between 50 and 80 Iso
Rollo Pyro, made by Bostic and Sullivan
TF-4 Archival Rapid Fixer and
130 paper developer both made by Photographer’s Formulary
BW-65 Paper Developer, made by Photographer's Formulary

Ilford Multigrade FB and Ilford Multigrade Warmtone;
both are glossy double weight premium papers.

A note about Per’s darkroom:

One would expect that an artist and master printer of the stature of Per Volquartz would
have nothing but the finest, most expensive tools to work with––not so with Per. While
he did use a variety of fine cameras and lenses over the years, including his recently-
acquired custom-made Ebony 5 x 7, his darkroom was another matter. To begin with, the
space was about the size of a pantry closet, possible 12’ deep by 6’ wide. That may
sound like an adequate size for most darkrooms until you put the family clothes washer
and dryer into the same space. Did I mention that the darkroom access door leaked light
around the edges like a sieve? The sink was made of plywood sealed with epoxy paint; it
was homemade and dry, meaning that there was no water supply and no drain available.
Per did use a sturdy Durst 8 x 10 enlarger with a cold light atop and very fine enlarging
lenses however. When processing film or printing in his darkroom he had to walk out into
the adjacent kitchen and schlep water back from the kitchen sink. Discarded chemicals
were poured into a plastic pail in the darkroom as he worked. When Per was done for the
day he toted his bucket of spent chemicals through their spacious kitchen and into the
hallway to access the bathroom where he dumped it in the toilet. Yes, his prints were
washed in a gravity type archival washer, but it was on a cart so he could roll it in front of
the kitchen sink to hook it up. Film was washed in a small acrylic film washer that sat in
the bathtub. Per’s drying rack and UV contact printer for platinum printing were in
another room contiguous to the kitchen––an area that at one time had been used for food
preparation. Per did like to print slightly darker so that he could bleach back some of the
high values to create his ethereal luminous images. Per’s bleaching station was, of
course, the kitchen table. When Per was platinum printing, he did all the preparation and
coating of paper on top of Becky’s washing machine.

Per’s darkroom facilities and his application of the technical side of the art form bring to
mind two things. First is the line, “less is more,” coined by the 19 th century English poet
Robert Browning in his 1855 poem “Andrea Del Sarto” and was frequently espoused by
the 20 th century furniture maker and architect Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe, father of the
sleek and modern glass and steel sky scraper, the second is that Becky is a saint.

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