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The first time I saw the "black bleed" technique used was by Norman Seef. When I was attending school in Los Angeles, my wife worked for Global Business Management. She was an account executive and handled numerous people in the entertainment industry, including Norman. She also handled the accounts of another avid photographer and really nice person, Roddy McDowell.
Through her relationship with Norman, I did some part time work as shooting assistant and printing. Norman came about his look essentially through lack of knowledge of technical aspects of black and white. He developed his negatives in Dektol! Talk about snappy negatives! To compensate for his very contrasty negatives, he developed his prints in D-76. In his early days, he preferred a very soft focus, dreamy look. Instead of using fog filters on the camera, which was in vogue back in the early '70's, he diffused while printing. That's how he got the blacks to "bleed" into the whites. The problem was between the use of D-76 as a print developer and his diffusion, prints on normal grade paper were very muddy. To compensate, Norman printed on Afga #6, the most contrasty grade available.
Norman didn't deliver contact sheets to customers. On a typical shoot, he'd expose 30 rolls or so. After development, I'd make contact sheets and deliver them. He'd go through and mark a frame or two from nearly every roll. I'd then make 16x20's of the frames he marked! These would get delivered to the art director.
He was very particular about his diffusion. There was a particular stocking sold by Sears that he preferred. I'd then stretch it in an embroidery hoop and hold it under the lens for part of the exposure, from 40 to 60% of the time.