the art of the black and white
PRINTING PLATINUM PALLADIUM PRINTS
I approached platinum and palladium printing for several years, driven by the search for an alternative way to print my photographs.
In particular, I was looking for a system to make every single print “unique”, giving it unrepeatable peculiarities due to chance and my interpretation.
My attention has thus focused on the ancient printing techniques. This because they involve the manual application of the sensitive emulsion with a brush. In this way, even the simple texture given by the brush means that every print, even if originating from a single negative, is unique and original.
Among the many available, I chose one that uses two precious metals such as platinum and palladium. This is, in fact, one of the most refined and rare printing techniques even today.
It gives to photography, strictly in black and white, an extraordinary range of tones.
The platinotype dates back to the second half of the 1800, when the effects of light on the platinum were first observed. William Willis was the first to patent the printing technique for Platinum and Palladium in 1873.
Platinotype is complex and in some respects expensive but remains the point of arrival of the black and white photographic print also today. The difficult availability of materials and their high cost make it a little used and therefore little known technique.
HOW CAN AN ANCIENT PRINT TECHNIQUE OF 1800 FITS WITH THE MODERN SOLUTIONS?
I personally love this aspect! When I make the Platinum and Palladio prints, I feel the strong bond between the ancient and the modern. This truly excites me!
The Platinotype requires a contact print, that is to say that the negative is put in direct contact with the sensitive emulsion and must be medium / large format.
LARGE FORMAT NEGATIVES
The advent of digital has greatly facilitated this aspect allowing to realize large negatives without necessarily having to go through the creation of an analog inter negative. With the due experience, you can achieve excellent results even starting from a non-traditional negative.
The part that I find most difficult in the whole process is paradoxically precisely the realization of the negative, starting from a digital photograph. The dynamic response of Platinum and Palladium to ultraviolet light is not linear with respect to the inversion of the tones of a digital file and therefore it is necessary to adjust the density of the negative ink to compensate.
This passage is the most difficult and personal in fact it decisively influences the success of the Platinum and Palladium prints process.
In short, we must ensure that at each point of the “digital” negative corresponds a correct gray point on the final print.
THE PROCEDURE FOR PLATINUM AND PALLADIUM PRINTING
Once the negative has been created, the printing process becomes relatively simple.
You start by cutting the paper to size. I use the Arches Platine or the Bergger COT 320 and, more rarely, the Washi 45gr. You have to avoid the use of metal tools since the poor that could be generated in the act of cutting the paper could negatively affect the print.
In fact, the emulsion reacts with the metal.
You prepare the emulsion with the right balance of Platinum, Palladium, Oxalate Iron and contrast agent (if necessary). Then you spreads it on the paper with fluid movements. This part will determine the final yield of the external area of the print giving it the typical “brushed” appearance.
THE EXPOSURE PHASE
You proceed to position the negative and the next exposure phase after approximatively 30 minutes. During this time the emulsion will dry.
I get the irradiation to ultraviolet rays through a special oven that I made with the help of an electrician and a little DIY.
This is also a typical feature of the print. The quality of the bromograph, will determine the the exposure time and its quality. The height, the number of lamps and their power will determine the exposure time. This, usually, is not less than 10 minutes.
Once the exposure phase is over, the most exciting part of development begins. Unlike the silver salts print, platinum and palladium printing is revealed in a few moments. The full development, however, takes about 2 minutes.
It then goes to the clarification phase with three consecutive washes in citric acid.
All the work ends with a generous wash in running water.
If everything went well, the result will be extraordinary!