Category Archives: Carbon Printing

Reminder – Deadline for Submissions February 21 for Rendering The Spirit

This is a reminder that the submission deadline for Rendering The Spirit: The Personal Image in Alternative Media is less than a week away, on February 21.

Photoworks is a non-profit photographic arts and education center in Glen Echo, Maryland. Last year was their 40th anniversary, and as part of the ongoing celebrations and future vision for Photoworks, we are launching a new program to provide visibility and accessibility to historic/alternative processes and artists working in these media. Rendering The Spirit is the kickoff event to highlight this programming.

More of the Good Stuff
More of the Good Stuff
© 2008 Scott Davis
Gum Over Palladium


Works to be considered must be made using an alternative/historic process, including but not limited to lumen prints, daguerreotypes, gum bichromate, tintypes/ambrotypes/melainotypes, platinum/palladium, kallitypes, Van Dyke Brown, cyanotypes, carbon prints, calotypes, salt prints, albumen prints, bromoil, gumoil or some combination of the above. Silver Gelatin prints on machine-made commercial papers are not accepted. Original capture of the image can be from in-camera negatives or digital capture or some combination thereof, but the final image must be a physical object made using one or more historical processes.

Also include an artists statement, brief bio and an explanation of the work(s). All required documents (JPEGS, Artist statement/bio/explanation of works) should be emailed to no later than February 21st. Notifications will be sent by email to all selected artists by March 1. Works must be received by March 14. The opening reception will be held on March 26.

Render (v): to distill, to cook down to its essence, to translate, to represent.

Rendering: an act of bringing into being, of distillation, of translation, of representation.

By aiming our gaze at works created using “alternative” processes, we aim to show the diversity of work being created at this nexus of the 19th and 21st centuries and engage in a dialog about what it means to create work using anachronistic techniques.

Call for Entries: Rendering The Spirit

Curators: Scott Davis and Malcolm Cosgrove-Davies

Scott Davis is a faculty member at Photoworks where he teaches alternative processes, portraiture and studio lighting. He received formal training at Maryland Institute, College of Art. His specialty is platinum/palladium printing, and he is an avid collector of 19th century photography. He has exhibited his personal work locally, nationally and internationally, and has served as curator at the former Art Reactor Gallery in Hyattsville.

Malcolm Cosgrove-Davies is a self-taught photographer who since 1978 has been practicing historic photographic processes including gum bichromate, cyanotype, VanDyke, palladium, and carbon printing. Mac’s images derive from his extensive travel to developing countries as well as everyday life. Using antique and hand-made film cameras in various large & panoramic formats he seeks to match the image to the beauty and elegance of the selected photographic process. In addition to building the occasional camera, printing frame or other useful photographic gadget, he also creates books and presentation portfolios for his prints. He is represented in various collections such as the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Library of Congress, Maier Museum, and Lehigh University Art Galleries.

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens in color

I’m feeling incredibly lazy this morning so I’m just going to let these photos speak for themselves. These are various scenes from around Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, which as I mentioned in an earlier post, are a 30-ish acre park on the eastern bank of the Anacostia River in Washington DC. Part of the National Park system, Kenilworth is a generally un-heralded and underutilized public park, a true hidden gem of Washington. Part of what I like about visiting is the psychological tension of knowing that just outside the gates of the park is a truly rough urban environment in one direction, and major hustle and bustle in the other, but while you are in the park you have zero awareness of this – a veritable oasis of calm and quiet.














More photos from the Connecticut weekend

I don’t think it is obvious from these pictures, but one of the most striking qualities of carbon prints is the high relief surface. They look as much like etchings or engravings as they do photographs. This is caused by the hardening of the gelatin during exposure. Gelatin areas hardened retain their pigment and maintain density. Areas unexposed dissolve during development, leaving a void in the surface.

Photo Weekend in Connecticut

This past weekend I went up to Rocky Hill, Connecticut (just outside Hartford) to attend a two-day, three evening seminar and get-together, sponsored by the New England Large Format Photography Collective (NELFPC). The main theme of the weekend was to learn about digital negative making and carbon printing. The side benefit was most people brought examples of their current work to share and show after hours. What a terrific weekend! Our instructor for the weekend was Sandy King, an elder statesman for the chemical wet darkroom. A specialist in carbon printing, he is also the inventor of Pyrocat-HD (and its variants), a film developer with special benefit for people working in antique and historic photo processes.

Day one began with displays of some of Sandy’s carbon prints, and a discussion of digital negative making. Sandy does still use ultra-large format cameras from time to time (he has a 20×24 with 12×20 and 10×24 reducing backs), but he mostly travels with medium format gear and then scans his film to enlarge it digitally. He demonstrated the Precision Digital Negatives system for making digitally enlarged negatives, and discussed the benefits and flaws. He then discussed the QTR (Quad Tone RIP) method which has significant advantages over the PDN system, but is far more user-unfriendly to configure. We then scanned some film and made digital negatives to print from the next day.

After all the computer wonkery was finished for the day, dinner was served and the prints to show came out. I showed my two bodies of work, the platinum/palladium travel shots and the male nudes in gum and platinum I’ve been working on. Both series drew a lot of comments and praise, which was very nice. I was especially tickled when certain individuals who I hold in very high esteem made a point of complimenting me in private.

The next day we got down to the business of printing. Carbon is water-activated, like gum bichromate, and uses the same dichromate as a sensitizer. To make a carbon print, you first coat a gelatin and pigment (india ink mixed to taste with other pigment(s) to adjust the tone warmer or cooler) layer on a thin, flexible but non-absorbent medium (mylar or other similar material). This is your donor tissue. You then sensitize it with an ammonium dichromate and alcohol mix, dry it in a cool, dark place, then sandwich it with your negative, emulsion to emulsion, then expose to UV light. After exposing, you put your receiver paper (it can be anything from art papers to fixed-out silver gelatin paper) in a water bath, allow it to swell. After a minute, put the exposed carbon tissue in the water and sandwich it to the receiver paper. continue for another minute and a half or so, then take it out of the water. GENTLY separate the two, then place the receiver in another bath of warm water. You’ll see the image come up in the water bath. You can use a clearing bath as well, but it is not required. The clearing bath will greatly reduce washing time though, so it is a good idea.

To me, while learning carbon printing from a master printer was an awesome reason to travel 400 miles, the bonus that made it worth the effort was meeting the people who attended. Steve Sherman (the beyond generous host – we used his gigantic and brilliantly designed darkroom for the printing sessions and his living room for the show-and-tell sessions, general hanging out, and consuming all the amazing food), Gene LaFord, Dave Matuszek, Jack Holowitz, Glenn and Marie Curtis, Sandy King, Jim Shanesy and Diwan Bhathal (fellow Washingtonians and my travel pals for the trek up and back), Alex Wei, Armando Vergara, Robert Seto, Tim Jones, Paul Paletti just to name a few all made the weekend a really enjoyable experience and I am dying for the next one!

In the group photo, the one on the right, Sandy King is the one with the rolleiflex in his lap – which happens to be my rolleiflex. When I can get the negatives from the trip scanned, I’ll post some shots here.