John Yang's darkroom as it was left when he died in 2009. It has since been dismantled.

John Yang did all his own printing and had a lifelong interest in photo chemistry and darkroom technique. As a young man in 1951, he traveled cross-country to take Minor White's summer class at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. There he was taught the rudiments of view camera work, and Ansel Adams' Zone System. His earlier prints were silver gelatin (D.O.P.), but in the 1990's he started investigating alternative processes and taught himself the use of platinum, palladium, ziatype, and printing out paper (P.O.P.).

Throughout his career, Yang methodically documented his own darkroom workflow in order to refine his technique. Below are some of the ephemera from his darkroom, including pages from his "Darkroom Notebooks," a series of binders Yang used to organize articles and his own notes detailing his investigations on chemistry, papers, lenses, cameras, etc. Yang never owned a computer, or consulted the internet, relying instead on a collection of old technical books, and these notes of his own experiments and observations.

John Yang's "map" for setting up for Palladio printing in his darkroom.

On John Yang's Darkroom Notebooks:
"John Yang left behind a treasure trove for anyone studying the technical history of analog photography. John Yang was not only an artist, but a superb technician and a meticulous scientist. He documented his experiments with exposures, papers and chemistry; corresponded with other photographers and those in the industry; and annotated his library of technical articles and books. He was endlessly inquisitive, and pursued subtleties of photographic techniques until arriving at perfection.

The John Yang archive deserves to be studied in depth. It will provide more and more insights as the quickstep march continues away from the analog photographic techniques he and so many other artists valued, and that are celebrated in art institutions around the world. John Yang’s contribution to the art world of elegant images and meticulous prints is made even more precious by the archive of materials that so eloquently and personally describe his process."

— Nora W. Kennedy, Sherman Fairchild Conservator of Photographs
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
August 2014

Testing the covering power and light fall-off in the corners of a 6 1/2" Wide Angle Golden Dagor lens stopped down to F64. Here he is testing the performance of the lens at its outer limits. As you can see at the top corner, it gets blurry. (This is something you’d want to know using a large format lens when you want to shift it off center to correct perspective and so on and is followed up by his notations about the maximum Sinar (his 8" x 10" camera) front rise and fall and shift in the illustration below.

Diagram showing the relative image circle of the lenses he’s tested. You can see the corner of an 8x10 inch piece of film and then the circles show how much more than that the various lenses will cover.  

Diagram showing the relative image circle of the lenses he’s tested. You can see the corner of an 8x10 inch piece of film and then the circles show how much more than that the various lenses will cover.

 

Lens test calculations checking the light fall off as you go from the center of the image projected by the lens onto the film. He calculates that there is 4 times less light (1/4 light @ center) reaching the corners than the center, or equivalently, 2 stops.

Lens test calculations checking the light fall off as you go from the center of the image projected by the lens onto the film. He calculates that there is 4 times less light (1/4 light @ center) reaching the corners than the center, or equivalently, 2 stops.

John Yang's Process for P.O.P. printed with his interview in Post-Factory Photography #9

Comparing the color of seven different printing papers developed in Dektol diluted 1 to 2 and toned for a minute and 20 secs.

This step wedge diagram shows the range of tonal values that several different paper brands can reproduce, Palladio Papers being the longest and Arentz being the shortest.

This step wedge diagram shows the range of tonal values that several different paper brands can reproduce, Palladio Papers being the longest and Arentz being the shortest.

Documents exactly how John Yang processed 8 x 10 sheet film

Documents exactly how John Yang processed 8 x 10 sheet film

These notes chart the color over time properties of the toner used on Centennial printing out paper.

These notes chart the color over time properties of the toner used on Centennial printing out paper.


Thank you to Adam Bartos for assistance with the technical notes on this page.