by Gerald Boerner
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