Limited Quantities Available
For more than 40 years Ilfochrome (called Cibachrome 1963 – 1991) was the preferred choice of galleries and museums and the premier method for optically producing fine art photographic color prints. It was especially noted for its unsurpassed color brilliance and proven archival permanence. Ilfochrome exhibits exceptional hue rendition and color separation. Resolution exceeds that of any other analog print material including Black & White products. The high gloss mirror surface provides a unique depth and radiant beauty which has never been replicated by any other print medium. Ilfochrome was widely regarded to be the most notoriously difficult color printing process to master, and materials costs have always been several times greater than those of any other color print method. Thus its application was generally limited to a sector of the fine art market.
The photographer hand printed Ilfochrome exclusively until 2008 when, after three consecutive years of increasingly severe supply problems, reliable procurement of the material and its processing chemistry became impossible. Limited inventories of many images are still available.
To inquire about availability, please call (540 252 4142) or Email firstname.lastname@example.org
|Standard Size — ILFOCHROME Prints
(nominal 11" x 14") image area: 9 3/4" x 13 1/2" – matted to 16" x 20".
|Large size prints** — ILFOCHROME Prints
(nominal 16" x 20") image area: 15 3/8" x 19 3/8" – double matted to 22" x 26".
Window mats are Rising 4-ply 100% cotton fiber white museum board with a hinged 2-ply backing of the same material and an additional 3/16" foam board backing. These and all other materials used are acid–free and archival.
These prints are exclusively the polyester based Ilfochrome Classic Deluxe Super Glossy (CPS.1K normal contrast and CLM.1K medium contrast) and were optically hand printed by the photographer from his original film transparencies – utilizing a Durst Laborator 1200 4" x 5" enlarger and Rodenstock APO enlarging lenses.
The original photography is both 35mm and 6x7cm, using primarily Kodachrome 25 Professional and Velvia 50 films. No color filtration was utilized in the original film photography. The photographer has endeavored in printing to reproduce as closely as possible what the eye perceived without manipulation or deliberate alteration.
Ilfochrome Classics are the longest lasting analog color prints available. The material’s polyester base, Dupont Melinex®, provides excellent dimensional stability. The product contains no paper.
All other analog color print processes are chromogenic, in which the processing chemistry interacts with color coupler compounds in the paper during wet processing to form organic dyes on the print. Ilfochrome is uniquely chromalytic. Its inorganic azo-metallic dyes, in their final chemical state, are built into the material’s emulsion layers when the product is manufactured. These are bleached out selectively during processing. Azo dyes are known for their color purity and exceptional stability. These dyes also have superior spectrophotometric characteristics, meaning they yield images with excellent hue rendition and color separation.
Ilfochrome’s dyes are much more stable than the organic azo-methane and azo-aniline type dyes used in chromogenic materials. Most chromogenic prints contain trace amounts of residual color couplers that can discolor with time. Properly processed Ilfochromes are free of any substances which can potentially cause degradation. Ilfochrome’s dyes are also more resistant than chromogenic dyes to staining or fading by atmospheric gases and pollutants.
Ilfochrome provides significantly higher resolution of fine detail compared to any other analog color or Black & White print medium. The product was first used for reproduction of military aerial reconnaissance photography in the mid-1960s. Ilfochrome is also a positive-to-positive process and is exposed directly from positive transparencies (color slides) without the need for an internegative. Therefore it retains the advantage of first generation sharpness.
Ilfochrome’s nine emulsion layers are extremely thin, having a combined thickness of 22 nanometers (billionths of a meter), The dye particles within these act as an anti-light scattering layer. During exposure, the projected image does not spread out and diffuse as it penetrates and exposes the emulsion. These anti-light scattering or self masking properties provide the material’s superlative sharpness, plus more brilliant and saturated colors as well as a truer, more accurate rendition of the original transparency. Because the dyes are in the emulsion layers, rather than on the print surface, Ilfochrome reacts quite differently to light when viewed, having an almost three dimensional effect. Combined with the ultra high gloss, mirror surface of Ilfochrome Classic, these qualities provides a richness and depth that cannot be achieved by any other color print medium.
When marketing the product during the 1990s Ilford guaranteed the permanence of Ilfochrome Classic for 200+ years without objectionable fading under normal display illumination, if properly processed and with framing qualifications – specifically a vapor barrier incorporated into the frame backing to retard humidity fluctuations. Without such special vapor barriers the prints can be expected to last much longer than a lifetime. Other estimates of Ilfochrome Classic’s archival longevity (no detectable change) vary considerably, depending on the source and testing methodology, and range from approximately 30 to 60 years. It should be noted that the methods employed in these accelerated tests are very controversial, and, unlike digital prints, Ilfochrome Classic has a proven track record. In dark storage, or if looked at for only a few hours each year, there is consensus that Ilfochrome is virtually permanent – being rated at 500+ years, the highest possible rating.
I have sold thousands of Ilfochrome prints since 1993 and, as of early 2011, have not received a single complaint or negative comment about fading or color shifting. Ilfochromes that have been framed and displayed in my home since 1978 are still pristine and qualitatively indistinguishable from prints of the same images made in 2007. Also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ilfochrome and comments by Carter E. Gowl about Printing Ilfochrome.
The Future of Ilfochrome
Cibachrome was developed by Ciba-Geigy Corporation in Switzerland in the early 1960s. The product name was changed to Ilfochrome in 1991 when the process and production facilities in Freiberg, Switzerland were purchased by Ilford, a U.K. based company in the photography business since 1897.
Ilford encountered financial difficulties and announced insolvency in 2004. In February 2005 a management buyout preserved its England based Black & White operations. In July 2005, however, the Swiss based color business and Ilfochrome production facilities were acquired by Oji Paper in Japan. Oji Paper sold Ilford Imaging Switzerland GmBH to Paradigm Global Partners LLP, a British business group, in April 2010.
Almost every year since I began selling my Ilfochrome prints in 1993 I have heard rumors that the product was being discontinued. It is still available but no longer on a practical or reliable basis – except perhaps to large commercial labs. The digital revolution continues to wreak havoc within the traditional photographic industry.
The only remaining type of Ilfochrome dedicated chemistry since 2005 is classified as HAZMAT (hazardous material). The New York source will not ship the product. Currently my best option for obtaining the chemistry is to drive to New York City, a 12 hour round trip, to pick it up. Shipping HAZMAT by common carrier from the only other domestic source in the western U.S. is prohibitively expensive. The chemistry and the Ilfochrome Classic media I used are all now special order items with variable and sometimes long lead times. Since 2007 the price of Ilfochrome Classic media has more than doubled, and the price of the chemistry has increased by more than 600% (not including shipping). Previously the chemistry represented about half the materials cost of each print.
During the 1990s dozens of custom color labs in the U.S.A. printed Ilfochrome – at least three in the Washington, D.C. area alone. In 2007 approximately 20 of these labs were still using the product. As of early 2011 only about 4 domestic labs were still providing this service. In comparison, in early 2011 there were 9 Ilfochrome labs in Germany, 8 in Switzerland, 5 in Spain, 2 in France, 2 in Australia, 2 in Great Britain, 1 in Finland and perhaps others.
Obtaining information in recent years has been almost as difficult as procuring the materials. There has never been any effective, or even detectable, marketing presence in this country. Few people other than knowledgeable photographic print enthusiasts have ever heard of the product. Throughout the various changes in ownership Ilfochrome has been a well kept secret.
Unless current availability issues are resolved it is very unlikely that I will resume printing Ilfochrome.
UPDATE: Ilford announced the discontinuance of Ilfochrome paper In late 2011. Final production, for reserved orders only, occurred in early January 2012. From 2005 through 2011, except for large commercial labs, procuring Ilfochrome paper and chemistry was always difficult and sometimes impossible. No print medium with comparable qualities is being manufactured today.