Tag Archives: platinum/palladium

The Boathouse Dock, Georgetown

I was up on the old abutment for the C&O Canal viaduct that connected the canal from Georgetown to Alexandria over the Potomac River and looked down to the boat dock for the Georgetown Boat House and caught this composition. I had been photographing Key Bridge with my 5×12 (previously described here) when I looked down and saw this scene which cried out to be shot in the format.

Boathouse Dock, Georgetown
Boathouse Dock, Georgetown

The simple geometry and the contrast between the rigid lines of the dock broken up by the deck chair contrasted with the smooth water of the river really makes the image. Without the deck chair, it would actually be pretty boring. But adding that one small compositional element makes it go from so what to interesting.

Key Bridge, Evening, in Palladium

Key Bridge
Key Bridge

Another print I made this weekend – Key Bridge, in palladium. This is a 5×12 negative from my Canham. For the technically minded, I used a circa 1949 Kodak Commercial Ektar 12″ lens for the shot. It’s a very sharp lens with pleasant rendering, and a good match for the subject matter. I also want to talk for a second about the printing – this is a pure palladium print, with a touch of NA2 added for contrast. Sodium Platinum (NA2 for short) is a contrast agent you can add to a palladium print to boost the contrast if required. NA2 is very powerful stuff – a tiny bit goes a long way. In this case, I needed just one drop of 2.5% NA2 added to the 12 drops of Palladium and 12 drops of Ferric Oxalate sensitizer. NA2 comes from the manufacturer in a 5% strength solution, so you can see how little was needed to give the print some snap.

If you are using blended platinum and palladium, or trying to do a pure platinum print, and are in need of a contrast boost, you cannot use NA2 as a contrast agent – the platinum in it binds with platinum in your paper and what ends up happening is you reduce your highlights, blowing out detail, without actually increasing contrast. If you are using a blend, or pure platinum, you have several options – you can boost the contrast with a different additive, such as gold chloride, you can pre-coat your paper with fumed silica, or you can use a dichromate infused developer. I prefer adding a contrast agent into the emulsion rather than in the developer, because to do the infused developer route, you’ll need to have six or eight bottles of developers with different concentrations of contrast agent, and then you’ll have to play with chemistry to mix up replenisher for each developer concentration as it gets used. That realistically means keeping twelve to sixteen bottles of developer around. The downside to additives to the emulsion is that most of them will alter the color of the print. Gold Chloride will do anything from slightly cooler gray tones to eggplant/aubergine tones, depending on how much of it you use. Sodium Tungstate will actually reduce contrast in the print, and give you reddish brown tones. You can use dichromate in the emulsion as an alternative to the developer, but you must be careful in handling the undeveloped print as dichromate is toxic.

Fun with Triptychs – revisited, this time with prints!

You may recall I recently posted some triptychs I did with my Lomo Belair X/6-12. I had been postponing printing them because I was A: being lazy, and B: I knew that they would be challenging to print because 1: lining up two negatives is hard enough, but getting three is even harder, and these are three pieces of roll film which doesn’t want to lay flat, and 2: I was concerned that there would be too much space between the frames because of the size of the image area vis-a-vis the negative size.

Inertia being the greatest of obstacles, it took me until now to get around to printing them. The challenges of registering the negatives to map my coating area, then re-registering them so they would align properly when exposing were substantial, but not as bad as I thought they would be. I guess there was enough humidity in the room that they cooperated for the most part and didn’t act as dust magnets or tensioned leaf springs while trying to place the cover glass in the contact frame.

Columbia Plaza, Horizontal Triptych
Columbia Plaza, Horizontal Triptych

I think of this first one as a panorama of panoramas – it’s a horizontal panorama in the end, made of three vertical panorama shots. It’s the more conventional of the two in that it shows a fairly straightforward interpretation of the scene.

Columbia Plaza, Vertical Triptych
Columbia Plaza, Vertical Triptych

The vertical triptych I got a bit more creative in my interpretation, showing the middle frame askew, and each frame is not discreet in what it depicts – if you look carefully, they overlap in their subject matter, and you could almost do the top and bottom frames as a square-isn diptych.

Both images were printed on #Hahnemuhle #PlatinumRag in pure #palladium. No contrast agent was used, and they were developed in #PotassiumOxalate.

Rendering The Spirit: Interview with Marek Matusz

Could you tell me your name?

Marek Matusz

Where are you from?

Residing and working in Houston, TX

How did you get into photography as an art medium (as opposed to casual or professional use)?

That went hand-in -in hand with the discovery of alternate processes

Which alternative processes do you practice?

Just about anything: platinum/palladium, silver/iron processes, chrysotype (gold), gum bichromate

What attracted you to alternative processes in general?

I was attracted to the chemistry at first and then the aspect of creating one of a kind hand made images

What drew you to the specific media you practice?

Platinum and palladium prints were are of the technically most accomplished and able to produce most delicate highlights and deep shadows. Seeing great examples of early XX century work in museums and galleries made mu pursue the process . I have started over 25 years ago and the information back then was scant and confusing

How does the choice of media influence your choice of subject matter (or vice versa)?

When taking and composing a picture I try to visualize which alternative process would fit, whether I wand process edges showing, etc.

In today’s mobile, electronic world of instant communication and virtual sharing of images, how important is it to you to create hand-made images?

Two aspects are important. Education of consumer in the existence and quality of hand made images and history of photography through a practice of XIX century processes. The second is keeping and enlarging patron/collector market. Real collector wants something to be touched and held in hand, not a shared digital image.

Is your choice to practice alternative, hand-made photography a reaction to, a complement to, or not influenced by the world of digital media?

It would be totally silly to ignore the digital world. It exists regardless of our feelings about it (good, bad??). SO with that respect it is just a complement. But it is also a strong protests against huge color enhanced digital prints that have invaded galleries.

Do you incorporate digital media into your alternative process work?

Yes, I use the technology as a toll. Some of my captures are digital, most of my negatives are created with digital processes. I am also not against digital alterations of the photograph in the process of creating a picture

What role do you see for hand-made/alternative process work in the art world of today? Where do you see yourself in that world?

I see myself as a part of alternative photography movement. A small (by digital standards) but growing group of practitioners and educators that shares information, practices and the word of photography at its roots

GMC by Marek Matusz
GMC by Marek Matusz

Rendering The Spirit: Interview with Erik Larsen

Could you tell me your name?

Erik Larsen

Where are you from?

Grand Junction, Colorado

How did you get into photography as an art medium (as opposed to casual or professional use)?

My interest in using photography as an art medium was sort of chosen for me. I cannot paint or draw very well at all, hence I took to photography to satisfy my creative needs. I enjoy the varied and beautiful geography that surrounds me in Colorado and I want to try
to put what I feel and see in the landscape onto a print that the viewers will connect with.

Which alternative processes do you practice?

I’ve got a little A.D.D. when it comes to the different alternative processes. I use platinum/palladium, kallitype, albumen and gum printing as my “go to” methods, but if I feel the image warrants a different process or if I just want to see what a print looks like in another process I’ll use cyanotype, gumoils, carbon.

What attracted you to alternative processes in general?

Flexibility in appearance of the print is what the interest in alternative processes is for me. So much can be done to influence the final look of a print it is almost limitless. I also really enjoy spending hours in the darkroom, it is very satisfying for me. Being able to print on many different papers types with all the textures and tones available is a big plus in my attraction to alternative processes.

What drew you to the specific media you practice?

Sort of similar to the above question, it is very flexible in what can be achieved in the look and feel of an image. You can get a straight platinum/palladium look, or if you add a little gum over the print it can totally change the character of the print. I enjoy the gum over process (platinum/palladium or kallitype) because if all I want to do is enhance the shadows without affecting the rest of the print it is a good solution. On the other hand, I might change the whole tone of a platinum print with a deep gum printing over the top. The flexible nature I guess would be reason for the processes I use.

How does the choice of media influence your choice of subject matter (or vice versa)?

I am primarily a landscape photographer. I have never been into printing large prints, rarely over 11×14 inches in size. I want the viewer to get close to the print, study it for all it glory and flaws. I don’t know if it is a conscious decision for me to choose my media based on the subject matter, but I prefer for my images an intimate up close experience and I feel the processes I use are what fits my style best.

In today’s mobile, electronic world of instant communication and virtual sharing of images, how important is it to you to create hand-made images?

It’s paramount! We are saturated with images all day long. There is a certain satisfaction for me to spend countless hours printing and reprinting and image until I get what I want and I hope viewers will appreciate the effort involved, sometimes that hope is in vain but it means something to me to make a hand made image.

Is your choice to practice alternative, hand-made photography a reaction to, a complement to, or not influenced by the world of digital media?

I’m not influenced by digital media really at all. It doesn’t interest me as a tool as I enjoy using film and am comfortable with it’s attributes and limitations. If I’m honest I guess I kind of enjoy being one of a few alternative printers versus being one in a billion digital photographers.

Do you incorporate digital media into your alternative process work?

Not in a serious way. I may use a digital negative if the film negative is unsuitable to use for the given process I wish to print in.

If so, how do you incorporate it? Is it limited to mechanical reproduction technique, or does it inform/shape/influence the content of your work?

It’s just making a digital negative, my photoshop skills render me unable to go much further than that unfortunately.

What role do you see for hand-made/alternative process work in the art world of today? Where do you see yourself in that world?

I believe in the photography art world, the alternative processes will continue to be valued and appreciated for both it’s aesthetic appeal as well as for the craft involved. That being said, a good photograph is a good photograph regardless of how it was made. As for myself in that world, that is for others to judge. I will keep doing what I enjoy doing and let the chips fall where they may.

Candlestick Butte, by Erik Larsen
Candlestick Butte, by Erik Larsen

Rendering The Spirit: Interview with John Sarsgard

Hilly Kristal
Hilly Kristal

Could you tell me your name?

John Sarsgard. It’s of Danish origin… two of my great grandparents were immigrants from Denmark, and two from Norway, on my father’s side.

Where are you from?

I was born and grew up and was educated in Mississippi, where my Iowa farm boy father met my mother during his military service in World War II.

How did you get into photography as an art medium (as opposed to casual or professional use)?

I was initially attracted to photography via the darkroom, as a combination of science and magic. We lived in a small house with one bathroom, the only place a darkroom could work, and I learned to develop and print very quickly. I suppose I initially photographed things I liked or disliked or was attracted to for other reasons. I think I began documenting these subjects without much notion of art, but as I continued, I gradually wanted to make my photographs reflect my reaction to the subject, and make it more visually interesting. When steam locomotives were still around, for example, I wanted to photograph them because they were going away, and I had to have my own images of them. But then I noticed that all my locomotives looked similar to other photos I had seen, and started thinking about how to incorporate my thoughts and feelings about them, and how to make images that I thought pleasing. For years until now, that has continued. Photographing subjects to which I feel a connection, and attempting to express my connection and at the same time to make an image I find pleasing. And making prints myself has continued to be part of the process, although with a now dedicated darkroom! I wish I still had the 120 contact prints of the locomotives.

Which alternative processes do you practice?

Platinum/palladium

What attracted you to alternative processes in general?

Alternative processes provide much more freedom of interpretation for the artist. When I make an inkjet print, the final medium plays a much smaller part in my expression. I work on the image in Lightroom and/or Photoshop and then attempt to get the printed image to look about like what I have on the screen. Many of the inkjet papers are quite beautiful, but the possibilities for personal expression in the alternative processes are much richer. I am not attracted to them just because they are old. New alternative processes and variations on the historic ones will continue to be developed, and I would not reject them because they are new.

What drew you to the specific media you practice?

I saw Stieglitz’s platinum portraits of Georgia O’Keefe in the Metropolitan Museum and loved them. Along with daguerreotypes, I started appreciating photographs as objects of beauty in addition to a means of recording an image. Then I saw many of Carl Weese’s platinum prints up close, and held them in my hands, and knew I wanted to learn to make these things. I studied with Carl to learn. Perhaps I will try daguerreotypes some day, but for now, I would rather focus on making better platinum prints. Also, I am attracted first to the contact printing processes because I worked in the information technology industry for 35 years, have fairly good hands on computer skills, and am quite comfortable making digital negatives. I was a fairly good darkroom printer in silver gelatine, but the things I always wished I could do better printing in the darkroom are much easier for me in Photoshop. Maybe I will try some of the other contact processes, but for now I am enjoying getting better and better at pt/pd. I do dream a little about getting a big camera and learning one of the wet plate processes.

How does the choice of media influence your choice of subject matter (or vice versa)?

Good question, one I still am working at answering. When platinum printing was king, people used it for all kinds of things because that was what they had. Most of the subjects to which I am attracted result in portraits, landscapes, or people in places to which they are connected one way or another. I think all those work well in pt/pd. I did a series on young men in New York playing hard ball street basketball in a park in Greenwich Village. I enjoyed doing it but never thought of it as a platinum subject, but I would consider individual portraits of these guys as works for platinum.

In today’s mobile, electronic world of instant communication and virtual sharing of images, how important is it to you to create hand-made images?

It is just what I do. I do not complain about the electronic world and virtual sharing and all that goes with it. I participate in it. But I believe there is a place for photographs as things that can be held in the hand that have a beauty of process as well as a beauty of subject and composition. I do not create hand-made images because I think there is something wrong with electronic ones. I do it for their own sake and because I love doing it.

Is your choice to practice alternative, hand-made photography a reaction to, a complement to, or not influenced by the world of digital media?

Pretty much same answer as above. I make these things because I like what they look like and love making them. I do not reject digital media. People download lots of music from iTunes, and people still buy vinyl. They don’t buy vinyl because they are Luddites, but because they appreciate its special qualities. That’s how I feel about alternative, hand-made photography.

Do you incorporate digital media into your alternative process work?

I do. I print almost entirely from digital negatives.

If so, how do you incorporate it? Is it limited to mechanical reproduction technique, or does it inform/shape/influence the content of your work?

I would not say that digital media informs my alternative process work. I would say that my alternative process work drives what I do digitally.

What role do you see for hand-made/alternative process work in the art world of today? Where do you see yourself in that world?

Hand-made/alternative processes have unique qualities all their own that add greatly to the more conventional images most people know more about. Painters and sculptors employ lots of different media and materials, and are richer for it. So can photography. But it is up to us as artists and to the rest of the photography establishment to help people learn about these alternative methods and materials most people have never heard of or seen. I love this kind of work, and I want others to see and appreciate it, so I try to get it out there for people to see. I like to do small things to help people see platinum/palladium prints up close and without barriers. I think doing thinks like showing work framed but not under glass helps. I show platinum prints to portrait clients.

Rendering The Spirit: Interview with Ian Leake

Venus Rising - Ian Leake
Venus Rising – Ian Leake

Could you tell me your name?

Ian Leake

Where are you from?

Nowadays I live in Switzerland, but I am originally from England.

How did you get into photography as an art medium (as opposed to casual or professional use)?

I discovered Charlie Waite’s landscapes. These showed me that photography could be a personal statement as much as a documentary record. Charlie opened my eyes and changed my life.

Which alternative processes do you practice?

Platinum/palladium printing. I occasionally dabble with other alt processes, but not for serious work.

What attracted you to alternative processes in general?

As an artist I feel it is important to be involved throughout the creative process. I want what I make to be my creation. You can only truly achieve this when working by hand.

What drew you to the specific media you practice?

I made my first platinum/palladium print in 2005: a close-up of some flowers on a slate embankment. I still have it somewhere. I had seen pictures of platinum/palladium prints online, but the first one I saw in the real-world was that first print I made. It was an epiphany, and I very quickly realised that there was nothing else I wanted to make. Platinum/palladium allows me a depth of emotional engagement that I don’t have with traditional silver gelatin or digital machine-made prints. This emotional engagement is really important. I want what I feel in my studio when working with the model to be conveyed in my finished work. Platinum/palladium allows this.

How does the choice of media influence your choice of subject matter (or vice versa)?

I find platinum/palladium to be the perfect medium for nudes. It renders soft, graceful and beautiful images that are far more subtle than the shouty, high contrast stuff we are routinely bombarded with.

In today’s mobile, electronic world of instant communication and virtual sharing of images, how important is it to you to create hand-made images?

I can’t really see the point in churning out machine-made images. Anyone can do this.

Is your choice to practice alternative, hand-made photography a reaction to, a complement to, or not influenced by the world of digital media?

I was making platinum/palladium before the digital revolution really took off. I use digital cameras, of course, but not for serious work. The workflow is so different and feels so shallow to me.

Do you incorporate digital media into your alternative process work?

In general, I would say no. I do use digital negatives from time to time, but this isn’t a significant part of my creative life.

What role do you see for hand-made/alternative process work in the art world of today? Where do you see yourself in that world?

Most photography collectors want distinctive, exclusive and personal artwork. Small limited editions of hand-made prints made using the finest of materials by a master of the creative process all contribute to this. And of course the enormous lifespan of platinum/palladium prints ensures that these photographs will pass the test of time. A well made platinum/palladium print will last as long as the paper it is printed upon. Many collectors like the fact that their investments will be there to be enjoyed by their grandchildren’s grandchildren.

Ian Leake’s work can also be found at IanLeake.com