Historical, Artistic and Technical Aspects of the Sabatier Effect

By William L. Jolly

Department of Chemistry

University of California

Berkeley, California 94720

Copyright 1997 by William L. Jolly.


Shine diffuse light on a developing photograph, and continued development yields an amazing result: part of the image is positive, and part of the image is negative! The process (usually called solarization, but sometimes called the Sabatier effect) is looked upon by most photographers as completely mysterious. In this book I try to remove the mystery from solarization by describing its history, by showing how it can be used in both art and science, and by explaining how it works from a scientific point of view.

Publication of this book on the website of the College of Chemistry of the University of California at Berkeley would not have been possible without help from my wife, Jane Vavra Jolly, and the staff of the College Computing Services and Network Services, to whom I am very grateful.

Sources of reproduced photographs are indicated in the captions. I thank the copyright holders for their permissions to publish.


Click on the chapter name to link to the text.

Chapter 1. Early History and General Procedures

Early History of the Sabatier Effect
Other Kinds of Solarization
Overexposure Solarization
Luppo- Cramer's Variations
Border Depletion Solarization
Technical Description of the Phenomenon
Effect of the Film or Paper
Effect of the Developer
Recommended Procedures for Paper and Sheet Film
First Exposure
First Development
Second Exposure
Second Development
Getting Acquainted with the Technique
Roll- film Solarization

Chapter 2. Edge Effects in Nature and Technology

Silver Linings
The Heiligenschein
Becke Lines
Excitatory- Inhibitory Edge Effects
Mach Bands
Xerography and Television
Mackie Lines
Sabatier Border Lines
Photographic Negative- Positive Derivations
Low- Contrast Combinations
High- Contrast Combinations
Agfacontour Film
Bas- Relief
Miscellaneous Border Effects
Halftone Printing
Photoelectrochemical Imaging
Kirlian Photography
Computer Manipulation of Images
Zero- Crossings
Simulation of Solarization

Chapter 3. Early Artistic Solarization

Man Ray and Lee Miller
Muspratt and Ramsey
Other Photographers

Chapter 4. Other Applications of Solarization

Solarization of Color Emulsions
Reversal Processing
Color Reversal Film Processing
Color Reversal Paper Processing, Chromogenic
Color Reversal Paper Processing, Non- Chromogenic (Cibachrome)
Negative Processing
Color Negative Film Processing
Color Negative Paper Processing
Duotone Solarization
Line Drawing and Outlining
Isodensitometry and Color Posterization
Direct Positive Transparencies
Sabatier Latensification
Multiple Printing
Miscellaneous Applications
POP Solarization
Polaroid Film

Chapter 5. Rationales of the Sabatier Effect

Why are High- Contrast Emulsions Best?
Sabatier Solarization as a Form of Overexposure Solarization
Some Simple Attempts to Explain Sabatier Desensitization
Desensitization by Optical Shielding
Desensitization by Using Up Sensitive Grains
Desensitization by Bromide and Iodide
Desensitization by Developer Oxidation Products
Desensitization by Silver
Sabatier Desensitization by Internal Latent Image Specks
The Albert Effect
Emulsions with Mainly Internal Sensitivity Sites
Emulsions with Mainly Surface Sensitivity Sites

Chapter 6. Border Depletion Solarization

Thiosulfate- Containing Developers
Tray Development
Flat- Surface Development
Thiocyanate- Containing Developers and Chromoskedasic Print Development
General Color Processing Methods
Print Manipulation During Color Development
Modification of the Color Image
Chromoskedasic Film Development
The Teske "Duotone" Process
"Quasi- Solarization"

References, Alphabetized According to Author