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Prof. Boerner's Explorations

Thoughts and Essays that explore the world of Technology, Computers, Photography, History and Family.

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Category: Photographer’s Profiles
by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Yesterday we examined the Cyanotype printing-out paper that created beautiful blue images from contact prints from negatives or photograms of objects placed upon its surface. These prints required ultraviolet (UV) light of the sun. The image is “developed” by washing in water followed by toning (optional).

Today we examine another type of non-silver printing-out paper that uses a different iron-based sensitizer to coat fiber paper, the Van Dyke Brown process. This color was first developed by the painter, van Dyck, and used by many of the Flemish painters. The beautiful brown image produced on this paper is exposed with UV light (the sun) just like the Cyanotype. The processing of the image on the paper involves a water wash followed by a “fixing” bath to remove excess sensitized compounds followed be a long (30+ minutes) bath.

These images, as will be seen by some of the samples included below, are stunning and durable. They can be toned to bring out some additional tonality. This is a process that requires patience and practice to master, but results in stunning images.  GLB

    

“The darkroom is just the means to an end.”
— Kim Weston

“I’ve been a photographer all these years… I haven’t been in my own darkroom for 10 years.”
— Graham Nash

“My lifestyle is bizarre, but the only thing you need to know is where the darkroom is.”
— Robert Mapplethorpe

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by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Most of us who have worked in the wet darkroom typically use silver gelatin prints to create the images from our negatives. We learn to use the enlarger, develop the film and paper, and show off our handiwork. And, in most cases, we produced some pretty good images.

What many of us have not explored are some of the older, alternative processes. We have Sir John Herschel to thank for many of these techniques. He experimented extensively with the light-sensitivities of many chemical. He found that sodium thiosulfate (hypo) would fix the image of the early prints after toning. He helped define the technology used to create platinum prints. And he developed the process of creating “blue prints”, called cyanotypes.

This is a neat technique that coats a porous paper, like watercolor paper, with a light sensitive mixture of iron compounds. A contact negative could then be placed upon this coated paper, after it dried, exposed to UV light in the outside sun, and then washed in water to creating distinctive prints in a beautiful blue color.

This same process can be used to create photograms as well as negatives (film or digital prints). It is fun, relatively inexpensive, and produces an attractive print.  GLB

    

Photography helps people to see.”
— Berenice Abbott

Photography can never grow up if it imitates some other medium. It has to walk alone; it has to be itself.”
— Berenice Abbott

Photography can only represent the present. Once photographed, the subject becomes part of the past.”
— Berenice Abbott

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by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 In yesterday’s posting, we discussed the platinum/palladium printing process in general, semi-theoretical terms. Today, we take a more focused look at the mechanics of the process. Unlike the printing-out processes used with salt prints, albumen prints, and collodion prints, the platinum process requires more than just processing the print through water washes and then, in all probability, toning them. These chemicals are relatively mild and non-toxic, except for the heavy metals used in the toning.

Platinum prints, on the other hand, use a developing-out process that employs several solutions that are toxic. The photographer is recommended to wear gloves and exercise caution while processing. The heavy metals used to coat the paper, develop the image and process the finished print are much more complicated and “tricky.”

The process introduces variables at every stage of the process. Mixing the solutions may vary. The coating of the paper and the choice of the paper itself can produce variations. The developing techniques and consistency from one development to the next can cause the outcome to differ. This is the reason behind the unique appearance of platinum prints from one photographer to the next.

We hope that the following will provide you with a methodological overview of platinum printing. After reading this overview, you should read the complete references for the fuller details before attempting this process on your own.  GLB

    

“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.”
— Ansel Adams

“While photographs may not lie, liars may photograph.”
— Lewis Hine

“Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs.”
— Susan Sontag

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by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 The photographic printing processes that we have considered to this point have been based upon sensitizing a medium (glass, cooper, tin, or paper) with a binding solution and a sensitizing solution that included silver compounds. The silver medium was exposed to light, the excess silver removed through a washing process and the finished image was packaged or toned to protect the image. This was the typical process throughout most of the 19th century.

In the 1870s, however, different sensitizing processes were tried using light sensitive metals other than silver. These were discussed in yesterday’s post on the non-silver processes. Our technique today involves using an iron compound (ferrous oxalate) as the light-sensitive compound. This process, known as the Platinum Printing-Out Paper. This process converts the iron compound into a form that is highly stable and renders tonality to images that provides greatly-enhanced shades in the shadow areas as well in the mid-tone region.

This type of print has been used by some of the major photographers to produce very-artful prints that stand the test of time. These prints, when on exhibition, produce images far superior to those of the latter 19th/early 20th century. Even now, we cannot equal them in our darkrooms.

This is the first of a two part series. Today we will examine the process more generally and tomorrow we will examine some of the chemistry involved. Enjoy you exposure to this great imaging method..  GLB

    

“Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.”
— Ansel Adams

“While photographs may not lie, liars may photograph.”
— Lewis Hine

“Travel becomes a strategy for accumulating photographs.”
— Susan Sontag

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by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Photography started out by coating metal or paper with light-sensitive solutions containing silver compounds. A little later, printing-out paper was introduced in which silver compounds were applied to the surface of paper previously coated with binding substances like collodion to which light-sensitive silver compounds were bound. Still later, these papers were coated with a third layer of clay-like substances (Baryte) to separate the impurity of the paper from the silver binding layer.

These produced printing papers that produced most of the prints of the 19th century. The problem was that the image on these papers was subject to contamination from unwashed silver compounds in the sensitized surface, from impurities in the paper, or from other chemicals used to “fix” the images. Therefore, toning processes with gold, platinum, selenium, and/or sepia to retard this degradation of the image.

This is where the alternative photographic processes summarized here come into play. Since they do not use silver to capture the latent image, the degrading of the image is avoided. Furthermore, They produced images that produced unique colors and, when processed properly, were relatively permanent. In fact, the Platinum prints were not only very resistant to fading, but they produced images with extended ranges of tones to produce extremely beautiful photographs.  GLB

    

“You have to see a building to comprehend it. Photographs cannot convey the experience, nor film.”
— Arthur Erickson

“I don’t use composers. I research music the way I research the photographs or the facts in my scripts.”
— Ken Burns

“I don’t think I think when I play. I have a photographic memory for chords, and when I’m playing, the right chords appear in my mind like photographs long before I get to them.”
— Earl Hines

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by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Continuing from our discussion yesterday of the gold toning process, we are examining some other toning technologies that were used during the 19th century. Some of these technologies are still in use today. These include sepia, selenium, and platinum toning.

The whole reason these processes were used was simple: the Printing-Out process used or Salt Paper, Albumen Paper, and the Silver Collodium process did not necessarily remove all the unexposed silver compounds from the print. A fixing solution was not used to deactivate and remove this excess silver; over time the silver could turn dark in light and make the print image essentially disappear.

The toning process resulted in a heavy metal to combine with the silver salt so that the permanence of the print was more likely to be preserved. In addition, depending on which toning process was used, the black and white print would take on the color of the toning agent. Thus, not only were our prints preserved, but their image quality was enhanced.

Today, we tend to associate the sepia toned image with a 19th photography. Therefore, when you view your family’s photo album and see those beautiful toned prints from the 19th century, you will know why.  GLB

    

“People believe that photographs are true and therefore cannot be art.”
— Mason Cooley

“People taking photographs of their meals are not critics; they are from the United States.”
— Louis de Bernieres

“So I went to Chicago in 1940, I think, ‘41, and the photographs that I made there, aside from fashion, were things that I was trying to express in a social conscious way.”
— Gordon Parks

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by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 In the early days of photography, the prints produced on Salt Paper and Albumen Paper were fragile after they completed the Printing-out process to remove some of the remaining silver salts with a water bath. Depending on how well this washing had been done, the print may have had much of the unused silver salts in the highlight areas had been cleared so that the print would survive.

Unfortunately, this washing process was not always done sufficiently to assure the prints durability. Therefore, most of these Salt and Albumen Printing-Out paper images were toned following the clearing sequence. This consisted of placing the wet positive in a solution of a heavy metal like gold, selenium, or platinum. These solutions would bind with the remaining silver salts to form a more stable, non-photoreactive image with enhanced tonality.

In fact, most toning involved a two-step process with gold toning followed by sepia (iron) or selenium toning. The gave the images a more pleasing, richer look in the black areas. These toning processes also helped preserve the image since they inactivated the silver salts so that the prints could be shown in the light.

We still use toning processes in our wet darkrooms. Unfortunately, the expense of gold and platinum have caused those toning processes from continuing to any appreciable extent. We do use sepia and selenium toning to enhance our black and white images. In the digital darkrooms, programs like Photoshop allow us to continue to use sepia toning.  GLB

    

“People believe that photographs are true and therefore cannot be art.”
— Mason Cooley

“People taking photographs of their meals are not critics; they are from the United States.”
— Louis de Bernieres

“So I went to Chicago in 1940, I think, ’41, and the photographs that I made there, aside from fashion, were things that I was trying to express in a social conscious way.”
— Gordon Parks

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by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Yesterday, we looked into the Salt Printing-out process that was used in the early days of photography to create positive images from the calotype paper negatives. When the wet-plate collodion process began to be used to create negatives, photographers still tended to use Salt Printing-out process. But this method was especially prone to loose clarity if exposed to sunlight because the photographer may not have washed the print well enough.

That opened the door for a different technique, the Albumen Printing-out process, for preparing sensitized coating on the printing paper. This process used the white of a chicken egg to coat the paper; this coating then was sensitized to light by adding a silver salt solution. This printing out paper produced images with much better tonality and proved superior to the Salt Paper.

While this Albumen Paper process was somewhat less prone to the deterioration due to unexposed silver left in the image, it suffered from a different problem: it was prone to cracking! In most cases, this cracking only showed up years later instead of almost immediately.

In any case, these processes were held in check by the toning process used after the initial washing of the images. We will examine some of these toning processes over the weekend. Be sure to check back for that..  GLB

    

“I like photographs which leave something to the imagination.”
— Fay Godwin

“I look back at old photographs and videotapes, and I go, Who was I trying to be? Who was I doing this for?”
— Marla Maples

“I like to feel that all my best photographs had strong personal visions and that a photograph that doesn’t have a personal vision or doesn’t communicate emotion fails.”
— Galen Rowell

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by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 From early in the history of photography, the alternatives for producing finished photos was either a clear, but non-reproducible Daguerreotype or a print from a paper Calotype negative. In the latter case, the typical reproduction process was using a Salt Print. Henry Fox Talbot, the developer of the Calotype, focused most of his attention on reproducing his photos through a mechanical photogravure process.

The Salt Print was created by coating a plain paper (like that used for watercolors) onto which a sizing layer was applied followed by a silver salt solution. The negative was placed over the sensitized paper and exposed to bright UV light, generally from the sun. The exposed print was then washed in water, toned with a gold or platinum solution, washed again, fixed in hypo, and the thoroughly washed again.

These prints were then mounted for the client. The problem with these Salt Prints comes about when any one of the washing steps is not completed successfully; leaving silver salts in the print could continue to develop in sunlight, destroying the image.

This was an example of the “Printing-Out” process, as discussed in a previous post. The Salt Print was replaced in the mid-1850s by paper coated with collodion which was processed by a “Developing-Out” process that was less likely to be damaged by time if properly processed.  GLB

    

“Not everybody trusts paintings but people believe photographs.”
— Ansel Adams

“Life is not significant details, illuminated by a flash, fixed forever. Photographs are.”
— Susan Sontag

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by Gerald Boerner

  

JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 At the beginning of photography, two innovators offered very different options for creating these images on metal plates or paper without the need of an artist. The Daguerreotype, introduced in France by Louis Daguerre in 1839, created a positive image on a polished plate coated with silver. These images created strikingly sharp photos of people and landscapes. About the same time, William Henry Fox Talbot, in the United Kingdom, started creating negative images on silver-coated paper; positive images were created using “salt paper” and direct sunlight.

The process created by Fox Talbot, the calotype, was more of a mechanical process and produced less distinct images until other innovators contributed better processing techniques for “fixing” the images with sodium thiosulfate; Hershel made this critical contribution. This resulted in progressively more clear images than previously, being about equal to the Daguerreotype.

Most processes after 1855 used this two-step and the new wet-plate collodion process became standard. This advancement was a direct result of the previous developments of the calotype. From this point, the photograph became more lifelike, faster, and sharper than that produced by either the Daguerreotype or the Calotype. The durability of the images were also enhanced through the use of this two-step process.  GLB

    

“Not everybody trusts paintings but people believe photographs.”
— Ansel Adams

“Life is not significant details, illuminated by a flash, fixed forever. Photographs are.”
— Susan Sontag

“In my photographs it is apparent that there was no posing at the moment I released the shutter.”
— Jerzy Kosinski

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