Cibachrome Light Etching


Pioneered by Ciba-Geigy of Switzerland, Cibachrome Light Etching is an archival quality form of photographic printing. The print is developed in a direct transfer—positive to positive—from a working transparency. The resulting image is only a second generation from the original, instead of the product of an inter-negative, or a negative to positive polarity shift, as in the standard photographic process.

Light is projected through the full-color transparency of the original work onto the receptor material, which is a triacetate film. The triacetate film is composed of three levels of dye emulsion consisting of cyan (greenish-blue, one of the subtractive colors, a complement of red), yellow (the complement of blue), and magenta (blue/red, the complement of green), which respond to the three primary colors in the projection.

All three levels are exposed at the same time and the film has a built-in masking property so that everything that is not sensitized is destroyed. Diazo dyes are used, which are more permanent than the inks used in other reproductive processes. The dense plastic backing of this film has the added advantage of maintaining the integrity of the paint better than most standard photographic papers.

When Ciba-Geigy was testing this process, they took a full sheet of blue, which is the least stable of the colors, and cut it in half. They then exposed one half of the sheet to the direct sun of the Sahara Desert for one full year. They put the two pieces back together and applied a densitometer to them to determine the degree to which the exposed portion had faded. They found that it had faded only .007 of a percent over the year. From this they were able to conclude that this new process had a very high degree of colorfastness.

Loren Adams started using Cibachrome Light Etchings because he found it hard to part with his paintings and
wanted the finest facsimile available for himself. People, upon seeing his Cibachrome prints, began requesting them, so Loren produced a Cibachrome limited edition that he could hand-finish to his exacting specifications.

In researching and developing the print-making process, Loren employed the expertise of Duncan McDougall, a Full Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society. Loren considers McDougall one of the top photographers in the world. Though primarily known for his black and white work, McDougall, along with his wife and partner, Yvonne Hammerton McDougall, has been very active in perfecting the application of Cibachrome to reproducing the Fine Art works of Loren D. Adams, Jr. He originally set up the program to photograph decaying documents and manuscripts, using Cibachrome because it was more permanent than standard photographs. McDougall now uses Cibachrome for archiving images for museums, in situations where using the original would not be appropriate.

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