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I have a b&w photo. The effect I want to achieve after developing it. That the photo itself will be visible. But when exposed to light will continue to degrade (continue to develop). I thought about skipping the fixer. But as I understood the degrading process might take years. I guess that if I'll skip the stop-bath the degrading process will be too fast. What is the best way to achieve this? I would like my photos to be visible for a few minuets (1-5) before going black.

Thanks to everyone who answers.

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For many years, portrait photographers dispensed “proof” prints on unfixed photo paper. The client took them home to share them with family and friends. The client generally returned to the studio and ordered a selection of finished portraits. Those “proofs” not returned soon faded. We are talking about fading in a few days of viewing in normal room light. You can do the same.

Develop your prints as you normally do. Bathe them in stop bath or just rinse in running water. Package them in lightproof material (aluminum foil works). Each time the print is viewed, ambient room light will cause some of the undeveloped/un-fixed silver salts to self-reduce. This is the fading process. At any stage, as the image deteriorates, you can bath the paper in a fix bath. This will preserve it from further deterioration.

If it’s just the fading effect you are after, you can develop normally and then turn on the darkroom white lights and watch the image fade. Again, at any juncture, you can plop the print into the fixer.

A neat trick: Develop, stop, fix and wash as normal. Soak the finished print in part A Farmer’s reducer. This is potassium ferricyanide (not particularly toxic). This action bleaches the silver image, and the paper can be bleached until the image disappears. You can then plop this dry, seemingly plain paper in an ordinary developer, and voila! The print is seen developing before your eyes. I used this trick to demonstrate what was happening to paper and to film. An effective teaching tool, because it can be carried out in normal room light.

  • If fixer is going to removes the unexposed salts, and the bleach removes the exposed/developed salts, what''s left? If you omit the fixer, the recipe you describe would sound like the one for a reversal print, which would result in a result which is white in the areas that were originally exposed to light and were subsequently bleached, and dark for those that weren't exposed before bleaching (and were thus unaffected by it), but were exposed between bleaching and the second development step. – supercat Dec 27 '17 at 22:54
  • @ supercat - - The finished print and or negative is metallic silver suspended in a binder of gelatin. This is the opaque metal that makes up the image. The fixer removes unexposed silver salts. The bleach coverts the metallic silver that comprises the image back to a silver salt. The image fades and seems to disappear. An ordinary developer will again reduce the silver salts. Metallic silver is again deposited, the original image materializes. – Alan Marcus Dec 27 '17 at 23:29
  • Okay, so the "bleach" you're using merely acts as a reducing agent. Reversal printing also uses a "bleach", but it removes the silver metal without affecting the unexposed silver salts unaffected. – supercat Dec 28 '17 at 0:02
  • @ supercat -- The bleach does not reduce; it combines. The older negative, and slide color film and print process used this bleach. However, the silver was completely removed and replaced with dye. The modern bleach is EDTA and it will also do this deed. Not magic or pixel dust, just photo chemistry. – Alan Marcus Dec 28 '17 at 0:09
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For it to develop, the developer needs to be on the paper, so using stop bath and fixer are going to wash the developer away. Try using the stop bath to pause the development. If you can keep it in a dark bag, then as long as it's been properly stopped, it shouldn't do anything while in the dark bag. Try developing then stopping a test print. Use water as the stop bath, as long as you remove all the developer, rinse it well to ensure that all of the developer is gone, and it should stop completely. Hang it out to dry completely in the dark. See what happens when you take it out after you've kept it in a dark bag for 2 or 3 days. Un-fixed paper should fog as long as it's exposed to light.

Obviously don't try any of this on your finest prints or your most expensive paper :)

  • Thank you for your answer. But if using only the developer won't it continue to develop once I take the paper out? Or washing it with water will slow the process? What I would like to achieve (to be more precise) is to have the photo looks developed, keep it this way in a closed dark plastic bag, or something, Then when taken out (might be a few days later) see it degrading. – Michael Dec 27 '17 at 10:45
  • Oh i see. In that case, you probably want to use the Stop bath to pause the development. If you can keep it in a dark bag, then as long as it's been properly stopped, it shouldn't do anything while in the dark bag. Try developing then stopping a test print. See what happens when you take it out after you've kept it in a dark bag for 2 or 3 days. Un-fixed paper should fog as long as it's exposed to light – laurencemadill Dec 27 '17 at 11:16
  • Thank you I will try this. Should I wash it with water after the stop-bath? – Michael Dec 27 '17 at 11:57
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    I only ever used water as the stop bath. the sole purpose of the stop bath is to remove the developer, so water will do the job. To stop it completely, I'd suggest rinsing well, and hanging out to dry. Obviously don't try any of this on your finest prints or your most expensive paper :) – laurencemadill Dec 27 '17 at 12:05

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