at the beginning of this year i bought a graflex 3A. i wasn’t quite sure what i was going to do with it …
the shutter was old and finicky, and while i had been in touch with a graflex guru to rehabilitate the camera, i opted not to use the shutter at all. the camera originally took 122A roll film that was more than 3″ in width, and included a special backing to write notes on the edge of the negative ( it is an “autographic” camera ). some people convert these cameras to use 120 format film, which is about 2.5″ wide but without a working shutter i opted to use the camera only for shooting paper negatives. i have been working with paper instead of film for years with large format cameras (4×5, 5×7, 8×10, 11×14). the format of this camera is 3.25×5.5 ”
and i love the long rectangular format so this was going to be fun.
at first i put single sheets of 5×7 paper in the camera, it made a beautiful exposure centered on the 5×7 paper, and this would work well if i didn’t need to make more than one exposure at a time, or i had a way to exchange exposed paper for unexposed paper. i scavenged a second film spool from another 3A camera i have, and i experimented to find the best way to make long rolls of paper. first i rolled fiber paper. i had a lot of wasted paper, and the emulsion tends to crack when cold or bent, so i soon realized this wasn’t the best choice. i found a box of old 8×10 resin coated paper and cut pieces in half. they were perfect for the spools. i took tape and connected 4 sheets of sliced paper end to end and then wound the paper onto a spool. i taped the end and left the paper for another day. leaving it wound up gave a “memory” to the paper so it wouldn’t readily unwind itself in the camera.
i eventually put the spool of paper in the camera and taped the end to the receiving spool and closed the back. there was no backing paper with numbers on it to remind me where to stop winding, so i just winged-it. 2.5 full revolutions seemed to be OK. made a lens cap out of tape and cardboard and put it on the front of the lens and was ready to make some exposures. the system worked well, and i have shot 2 rolls of paper so far.
after the paper is done, i go back to the darkroom and turn on the red light. i unwind the paper from the receiving spool and put each sheet in a warm water bath to relax the curl. then i put them one at a time in a 3.5 gallon container filled with used coffee developer i have run film through. the coffee developer works great with paper negatives. it is low contrast and slow. the images appear at around 2 minutes and finish developing at about 4 minutes.
the images scan well, and print beautifully as contact prints.