« How Not to Get Your Product Reviewed | Main | The Eggleston Show »

Thursday, 22 April 2010


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

I had the great opportunity to see the recent Irving Penn portrait exhibit at the Getty (www.getty.edu/art/exhibitions/penn/index.html). The platinum prints were exquisite. Actually, their impact was profound.

He made multiple exposures by re-coating and re-exposing the paper with the same negative. The depth and feeling conveyed by these photographs is indescribable. The process gave even more gravity and dignity to the subjects in a way that truly enhanced Penn's treatment of the subjects.

Sometimes the exhibit showed silver gelatin versions of the same negative. Both were black and white, but the impact of the two methods was quite different.

The platinum/palladium printing process is actually easier than many other alt processes (ie, Kallitypes). It can produce beautiful images with a surprising range of color from cool black/grey tones to very warm tones thru changes in sensitizer ratios and/or developer temperatures. More photographers should take the time/effort to learn this process.

Please avoid directly including photographs of nudes. My workplace will (probably) tolerate this one (I'm not going to ask), but I suspect others might be less tolerant.


I love this thread.
My son is finishing the senior project for his BFA and it's made up of palladium prints.

For 50 years, until George Tice took up the baton, platinum printing was virtually kept alive in the US by Laura Gilpin.

Really interesting article - thanks.

"1895–1905...Emerson in Britain and Stieglitz in America both declare gravure and platinum to be the only two processes suitable for artistic photography."

Photogravure always pops up in these histories of photo processes but is often given little emphasis. Stieglitz, in fact, loved it enough to master it himself (as did Emerson, Clarence White and others) and gave it a prominant place in "Camera Notes" and later in "Camera Work".

"The photogravures of Camera Notes were central to the identity, design, and reputation of the journal" (from "Alfred Stieglitz's Camera Notes", by Christian A. Peterson, page 36).

I mention this because our modern digital printing, being an ink process, is actually more closely related to photogravure than to the emulsion processes - the point being that ink-based photo printing is not a new phenomenon in the world of Fine Art photography.


Info on black and white digital printing at
I-Trak 2.1 http://www.cjcom.net/itrak.htm


"1911...Platinum printing is still the perceived high point of photographic procedures, but is rapidly losing ground to high-speed "gaslight" silver bromide enlarging papers..."

In 1911 wouldn't those have been silver *chloride* contact printing papers?

Rob and Sura from Paladio were kind enough to give me a hands on intro to platinum printing and Mike the platinum nude i sent you is on their paper. Glenn Brown.

Great read! There is nothing like a finely crafted platinum print. I will never forget walking into the MOPA in San Diego and seeing a wall of well lit platinum prints by Kenro Izu. In a room of great prints Kenro's prints virtually leapt of the wall. I have also had the privilege of holding prints made by Gary Auerbach in my own hands. There is just nothing like platinum and I am sure the prestige will only grow because the practitioners keep getting better and better.

I don't think I 'get' platinum prints.

I have just been to Hamilton's Gallery, in London, to see an exhibition of Irving Penn's portraits of traders. All the prints were platinum and, frankly, were disappointing to behold.

There were blown highlights, which was rather distracting, and the blacks were sooty or chalky. In contrast to some of the rich, glowing silver gelatin prints of Penn that are hanging in the concurrent Nation Portrait Gallery exhibition, the platinums seemed lacklustre. I also thought that the platinums, hanging at the NPG, were under-whelming.

I have read that platinum prints are incredibly difficult to produce and wonder if they are worth the effort? What am I missing?

Andrew, Penn's platinum prints are really atypical. He stretches the medium to the limit to achieve his trademark ultra high contrast printing style, but most people who take up Pt/Pd printing are looking for the opposite effect: the extreme subtlety of tone that could be called the medium's trademark.

While people can and do make any process complicated, to make a direct contact print from an in-camera negative in Pt/Pd is about as simple and straightforward as a photographic process can get. In a few days I'll post a brief step by step description of the materials and methods used to produce the prints for the TOP print offer.

The Loft at Kelmscott Manor by Frederick H. Evans reminds me of all those pictures in Arthur Mee's The Children's Encyclopedia
( http://wapedia.mobi/en/The_Children's_Encyclopedia )
and seems to have recorded a huge range of tones.

I'm off to the Isle of Wight on the 30th, and I hope to visit Julia Margaret Cameron's house Dimbola Lodge again, in between riding the motorcycle in the day, and drinking beer and talking nonsense at night.

I started pt/pd printing with Palladio paper. It was truly a wonderful product. Rob and Sura were a huge help in getting me started with this process. When Palladio stopped producing the paper, life became much more difficult. My hand coating techniques could never come close to the fine paper they produced.


Thanks for explaining the cause of my confusion!

Anyone who works with platinum should be aware of exposure precautions. Platinum salts can cause irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat, and can lead to respiratory problems. The United States Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) has imposed a workplace limit of 0.002 milligrams per cubic meter of air, averaged over an eight-hour period.

Common-sense precautions include the use of impermeable gloves, such as latex or nitrile, and working in ventilated areas. Good personal hygiene should be observed - don't eat in the same area, don't touch the platinum and then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, and cover skin lacerations with (dare I say it?) Band-Aids.

It's worth keeping in mind that cisplatin, a platinum complex, is used for cancer chemotherapy, with side effects of irreversible kidney damage and hearing loss.

Bill Rogers

Maybe this is obvious, but the ability to print digitally on transparency material now makes it possible to make contact (including platinum) prints of arbitrarily large dimensions, without having to use huge cameras. A book (and website) I have found informative in this regard is "Digital Negatives" by Hinkel and Reeder.

Bill, you don't often work with the dry salts. I might go a year or more on one batch of working solutions, but when making the batch from the dry salts gloves and good ventilation are of course necessary. Gloves should also be used when mixing the ferric oxalate solution. During the printing you don't want to have contact with either the coating solution or the developer, and you can use gloves or handling methods that keep your hands dry. Your warning against eating/drinking in the work area is great advice around *any* photographic chemicals.

Adrian, a print made from an enlarged negative is an enlargement, even if a contact printing process is used. Resolution, grain, and tonal transitions will be affected by the degree of enlargement involved. Many platinum printers have made wonderful prints from enlarged negatives done the old fashioned way, in the darkroom, and techniques to make digital enlarged negatives can result in very good prints, but they do not match the look of a direct contact print made from the in-camera negative.

Thanks to Clayton Jones for his comments about photogravure, specifically noting that it's an ink process like jet printing and consequently fundamentally different than gelatin silver or platinum. A worthwhile distinction to keep in mind, I think.

Note to Bob Peterson: I don't see where Mike is obliged to be considerate of anyone's at work surfing habits.

As well as snapshot didn't Herschel coin "positive" and "negative". The portrait of him reminds of some of the Irving Penn portraits that were on display at National Gallery in London, head filling the frame and the heavy shadow.
Kelmscott Manor was one of the homes of William Morris one of the founders of the Arts & Craft Movement in the UK. Morris was also very interested in the preservation of ancient buildings - this may have drawn Evans, with his passion for ancient buildings to photograph the manor.


The one thing I am MOST interested in, or perhaps I should say concerned about, is the issue of disposal of chemicals.

In a domestic setting what is the appropriate means of disposal of the chemicals involved in the process of making these prints?

I don't imagine that it is appropriate to flush the stuff down the domestic plumbing?

I would be most grateful for any advice (and if the advice is country or atate specific, please indicate this; I will still be interested though).

Thanks in advance.

"I don't see where Mike is obliged to be considerate of anyone's at work surfing habits."

Even so, I make a real effort. I'm aware that some people object to Eolake's ad, and that's too bad, but Eolake has cooperated in not making the ad itself offensive to anyone. I want people to be able to visit the site from work or from schools. I do realize that we might not be perfectly worksafe and school friendly, but I do my best.


In recent years I've seen several beautiful platinum-palladium prints by Gordon Undy at Sydney's Point Light gallery, so this introduction was interesting and helps me appreciate them further. Thank you.

My professional goal as an exploration geologist is the discovery of metal ores, so I find it fascinating to read that the limited supply of [native] platinum dug from [alluvial deposits] in Russia at first enabled and, later, nearly wiped out this artform. Now, most platinum and palladium comes from platinum arsenide and platinum sulfide, present at almost trace amounts (0.5 ppm, according to Wikipedia) in large tonnage nickel-copper sulfide deposits at the Merensky Reef, South Africa, at Norilsk in Russia and at Sudbury, Ontario, ensuring a consistent supply.


I am not a chemist, but here's what I understand about this. The platinum and palladium that go down the drain (most of it) are non-reactive noble metals that don't affect the environment. Except that my "stainless steel" sink keeps getting darker and darker. (It's being plated by palladium.)

Five grams of palladium salt (about what a few houseflies weigh) makes 55 ml of solution, and about 1.5 ml of that is used to make an 8x10 print. Only a little finds its way to the print, but the part that gets washed away really isn't dangerous.

The ferric oxalate, which is actually pretty toxic before use, is completely converted in the development process. It becomes, to put it simply, rust. Oxidized iron. That's washed away by the clearing process, which uses edta, a chelating agent that is also used as a food preservative. Not a panic inducing scenario. Compared to the amounts of hypo-complex compounds produced in silver printing, the platinum process is really very green. Like other products, if you do the full analysis, the extraction of the metals (mining) and the processing to give us a pure salt to buy, probably constitute almost all the environmental impact of making a platinum print.

@Carl: As a 8x10 photographer, really looking forward for your instruction. Do you mind to give your opinion to points a few posts raised here which reflect also the major issues I have to give it a try - how safe, how to deal with disposal and how easy. The last one is usual not an issue as you learn your waste a bit initially. Except you need quite a bit of $ for just 4 8x10 and it seems you have to experiment a lot.

Other than E6 Velvia Slide, I like black and white contact print. It is demanding (as you have to give the negative basically right) but easy (as you do not have much options and hence you cannot and do not have to do much).

In the history of photography and as of now, just wonder what are the good options for those who like to contact print and not just scan with V700 and ink jet print. Reading those web site for more than 1 year now and still not sure. Silver Cl/AZO type, Pt/Pd, ...

@Carl Wesse

Thank you VERY much for that education. You have given me valuable information.

However, I am still a little nervous about the process.

I note for example, the dangers/safety precautions outlined by Bill Rogers in his post above as well as in this excellent article on platinum prints: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/tutorials/platinum.shtml

I would dearly love to give this type of printing a go, but the health and safety as well as environmental issues cause me some concern.

I would appreciate your comments and advice (and the same from other readers too).

Thanks in advance.


You guys left out one further milestone in this history (perhaps out of modesty on Carl's part). The development, by Richard Sullivan and Carl Weese, of the Ziatype--an updated version of Pizzighelli's printing-out process. The Ziatype is palladium based and so technically not a platinum print, but given that most "platinum" prints are made with a combination of platinum and palladium, it would seem valid to include it in this timeline.

The Ziatype is a beautiful and flexible process that creates the same visual qualities as conventional plantium/palladium techniques, although it does require some attention to humidity. You can find lots of information on the Bostick and Sullivan website: http://www.bostick-sullivan.com

Nice chronology guys, thank you. The Stieglitz/Keiley glycerine method for platinum (1901 or so?) seems worth mentioning alongside gum printing.

I'd be interested in a post about "The Photo Boom"

The comments to this entry are closed.



Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 06/2007