Mark Fickett Art: Diazo Photography

My co-worker Geoff Borggard bought Diazo paper (also called "whiteprint" paper, similar to blueprint paper), for experimental photography. It is sensitive to UV light, and can be developed with ammonia fumes (as from Windex).

4x5 Photos

David Rochberg, another co-worker, lent us his Crown Graphic (a 4x5 camera, so named for the 4" x 5" negatives). It makes large, detailed exposures. Geoff set up these exposures:

MIT dome (Diazo paper, 4x5 exposure)

Both of them took about an hour, under overcast but bright conditions.

Main Street, Kendall Square (Diazo paper, 4x5 exposure)

Below, the camera used to make the exposures.

4x5 camera

35mm Photos: Comparison

I took a number of exposures with small pices of paper in my 35mm film camera.

Diazo paper photograph. With an f2 lens. Overcast/snowy weather, through an office window. Digital photograph at f2 and ISO 100.
MIT dome (Diazo paper)

50 minutes

MIT dome (digital)


Kendall Hotel (digital)

1 hour

Kendall Hotel (Diazo paper)


Construction sign and trees (Diazo paper)

40 minutes

Construction sign and trees (digital)


The developed paper produces a positive image, although it is flipped. (Thus the name "whiteprints" for Diazo paper: blue lines on a white ground, as opposed to the white lines on a blue ground for "blueprints".)


For the above images, I used my 35mm film camera, and an f2 lens.

35mm camera front

The Diazo paper is yellow when undeveloped (rectangle on camera), and the unexposed areas become dark blue when developed (top rectangle). I cut rectangles from part of one of the 18"x24" sheets, and set them into the camera. (The back presses tightly enough against the shutter housing to hold the paper in place.)

open camera with paper

The paper develops when exposed to ammonia gas; Windex is a sufficient source.

developing container

I taped a cardboard shelf into a cookie tub; I set the exposed paper on the shelf, closed the tin, and put something opaque over it to prevent further exposure; and after about 20 minutes it's ready. (Below, the exposed, white areas of the image are faintly visible on the paper. A few seconds of exposure to indoor lighting doesn't seem to damage the images.)

developing container with paper

Box Camera

To make larger prints, and in the spirit of experimentation, I made a cardboard-box camera using a magnifying filter. It makes roughly letter-size exposures of good quality, like the below.

image from box camera


2013-03-08 / Diazo Paper

In: Misc