You have run into one manifestation of a phenomenon known as "physical
development" . There are many sources of info on this, photographic
encyclopedia etc. I have a copy of Wall and Jordan's Photographic Facts and
Formulas that devotes a fair amount of ink to this. E. W. Lowe in "What
You Want to Know About Developers" also devotes some space to the subject.
Their concern, however is not the same as yours, they mainly talk about
You are correct in your assumption of elemental silver, but control is
another matter. Over used developer is the starting point. Beyond that
you're on your own. In an earlier thread, Judy expressed an interest in the
effect, so as you perfect your technique I'm certain she would welcome a
submission to the P-F Journal.
From: Judith Eastburn [mailto:email@example.com]
Sent: Monday, May 11, 1998 8:41 PM
Subject: Re: a question
I have a question that may be off-topic for alt-photo, but it doesn't
fall within standard black and white processing either, so here goes.
I teach photography in a high school, and I am also the darkroom monitor
at the end of the day. In this capacity, I find all sorts of things
floating in the sink after the students are gone...but what interests me
are the prints which have been developed, but not fixed. Sometimes they
are still in the developer tray, sometimes they have been tossed into
the sink. But they have a metallic surface quality of silvery
iridescence. This may be evenly distributed across the print, or may be
centered in specks or blobs on an otherwise dull surface.
When I fix these images, the shiny surface remains, along with the warm
These accidents can be quite lovely, but so far are entirely
Some of my students are interested in trying to reproduce the phenomenon
with a measure of control, but when they try leaving prints in the
developer, they just get a dark, dull image. I am assuming we are
seeing deposits of elemental silver, but how are they formed? What
determines the shiny quality, why is it sometimes speckled and sometimes
even? And of course, how can they get it to work when they want it to?
Thank you for any ideas.