Q. Can you tell me if one manufacturer's chemistry will work okay with another manufacturer's film? I have seen some very favorable reports of the Agfa black and white Agfapan 400 Professional film, and a friend of mine who just returned from Japan showed me some great negatives shot on Fuji Neopan 400 film.
I would like to try these, but I am only familiar with Kodak chemicals such as D-76, Kodak Rapid Fixer and Photo-Flo. Can these be interchanged?
A. They sure can. Kodak's D-76 developer has been the fine-grain standard for years. I have used it with Agfapan, Neopan and Ilford's HP-5 with good results.
Over a period of time, I have used D-76 in several ways: undiluted, mixed one to one with water, and one part developer to two parts water. I develop in stainless steel tanks on reels and use the solution only once.
I also use the Edwal FG-7 developer. I like it best for T-Max 100 and 400, and found it very satisfactory on the Neopan. I follow package directions for developing times and temperatures.
IF YOU'RE too hot to be out in the sun making pictures, here are a couple of new books to keep your interest up.
"Quiet Light," by John Sexton, is magnificent. It is certainly one of the most brilliant collections of black and white photographs I have ever seen. Sexton is on his way to surpassing his mentors: Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Wynn Bullock.
Quiet light is that gentle, luminous glow between the time the sun has set and darkness has taken over. It can also exist early in the morning, just before sunrise.
When other photographers have packed their tripods and lenses, Sexton is just getting started. His quiet-light exposures bring new dimensions to almost familiar scenes, while his long exposures and large-format cameras bring a new kind of clarity and detail to natural subjects.
Most of all, Sexton is a master printmaker. He always seeks the perfect print, and each finished print is a work of art.
While Ansel Adams showed the immense grandeur and scope of natural scenes, Sexton draws us closer to a point of interest, shows us detail and makes us aware of individual parts as well as the grand scope of things.
Sexton's work glows -- almost as if he had placed a light within his subject. This luminous quality adds a mystery greater than the work of Wynn Bullock.
The close-up and macro pictures in this collection are reminiscent of, and comparable to, those of Edward Weston. Sexton uses the modern technologies and equipment that Weston didn't have, and combining this with his talents as a printmaker, need never be rated second-best.
Edward Steichen said that a person should only look at eight images in a 24-hour period. In a world of automatics and motor drives, this is hard to believe, but I put it to the test and realized how true his words are.
After I went through "Quiet Light" once, I put it aside for a while and later looked at only the first eight pictures; Steichen was correct -- I enjoyed them all day, long after I closed the book. During the following week I looked at the rest of the book the same way. It stretched out the pleasure of these fine prints.
"Quiet Light" (Bulfinch Press Book-Little, Brown and Company, Boston) costs $50, and is worth it.
"Bernice Abbott, Photographs" is a collection of pictures by one of the 20th century's greatest photographers. It is divided into three sections, all in black and white. "Faces of the Twenties" includes portraits of some of the great writers and artists of the time: James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Jean Cocteau, Edna St. Vincent Millay and others.
Abbott's portraits are not necessarily kind. In some cases they are painfully realistic, but they are never mean or degrading. She seeks and finds the one outstanding feature in each of her subjects. The three-quarter and full-length poses reflect the character of the subjects, and give us a look at the fashions of the '20s and '30s.
In "New York" are extraordinary pictures of Trinity Church, Pennsylvania Station, Fifth Avenue and some spectacular views of the construction of Rockefeller Center. Her street scenes of the East Side, Wall Street and uptown, and the people who lived there, are part of a wonderful portrait of the city and the times.
"Science" is a group of pictures of physical phenomena: magnetic fields, waves, motion studies, light and even close-ups of penicillin mold. With these pictures, Abbott gives technical data and descriptions of her unique methods.
These pictures give us an insight into a period when photography was coming of age. It also shows us the remarkable way one person helped bring it into the 1990s.
"Bernice Abbott, Photographs" (Smithsonian Institution Press) costs $24.95.
Write Carl Kramer, c/o Weekend, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, DC 20071.