Cibachrome Update

In 2012 Ilford announced they were discontinuing Cibachrome but they would take advanced orders for their last production run. After much thought, I placed an order for 5,000 square meters of Cibachrome (Ilfochrome Classic Deluxe CPS1.K).

Aside from a huge financial investment to purchase the material it was unknown how I could process it all. I could only purchase chemistry for about one-third of my order because it had a shelf life of only three years. Cibachrome chemistry requires specialized chemicals, some of which were specifically invented for this process. The recipe of how to formulate those ingredients and how to mix the chemistry was a closely guarded secret. Ilford was not willing to share that information with me nor would they guarantee an ongoing supply of processing chemistry.

I had been making Cibachromes since 1980, was in love with the material and didn’t want to print on anything else. I knew that once it was discontinued it would never be made again because the manufacturing process required highly specialized equipment and skilled technicians with years of experience. The patents on the process expired in the 1980s, at which time both Agfa and Fuji tried to make the material, but without success. If I wanted to continue making Cibachromes it was now or never. I took the plunge, hoping I could find a way to obtain more processing chemistry down the road.

Shortly after the last production run of Cibachrome was delivered, Ilford Switzerland declared bankruptcy, the employees were dispersed, the property sold, the equipment dismantled and sold off as scrap metal. It was over: Cibachrome would never be made again.

In 2015 I was contacted by Dr. Damien Moigno, a chemical scientist who had worked for Ilford. He was starting a small boutique chemical manufacturing company, had leased Ilford’s chemical production facility, and offered to make P3 processing chemistry. I was able to purchase processing chemistry in premixed Parts A, B and C, just as Ilford had offered. Eureka!

Damien didn’t want to produce P3 chemistry for an extended period of time, as his business was expanding and he needed to move forward on other projects. So I arranged to purchase the Ilford factory’s recipe from him, along with the necessary ingredients to produce the chemistry myself, as needed. This is not a simple task! The developer has 14 ingredients, the bleach nine, and precise measuring, mixing and pH measurements have to be taken and adjustments made. The good news is that I now make “factory fresh” chemistry which is the best I’ve had in the 40+ years I’ve been printing Cibachrome.

Cibachrome is a unique printing material with a luminosity and depth that I believe to be unsurpassed by any other photographic medium. As of April, 2021 I’m back making Cibachromes full time and grateful to be able to continue the photographic work I started so many years ago. It is as exciting and fulfilling as ever!