Darkroom Digest: The Function of Gelatin in Classic Darkroom Photography

September 28, 2016  •  1 Comment

Arguably one of the most important inventions in photography was gelatin.  Even though the masses have followed the trail of photography to the digital realm, I am very aware of the impact gelatin has had on photography in general and continues to have on my photography to this day.   

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Gelatin transformed photography in a number of ways, in particular, it made dry plates possible and a new level of sensitivity that opened up new doors that were never possible before.  

I can only imagine the transformation and creative freedom that silver gelatin dry plates brought to photographers in the late 1800's and at the turn of the 20th century.  I completely embrace the amazing properties of gelatin as a contemporary black and white fine art photographer.  

I finally completed the build of my new off-grid darkroom this year and I have been able to return to creating silver gelatin emulsion from raw materials and pouring dry plates.  Gelatin suspends the grains during the emulsion-making process.  Without gelatin, undesirable clumping and settling-out would occur.  

Going a little deeper into the science, gelatin is critically important in regards to the rate at which silver halide crystals grow.  I love telling people that I am a crystal farmer....  Gelatin directly impacts the way that the emulsion responds to light.  

During the emulsion-making process, gelatin affords photographers the ability to transform from a chilled semi-solid form to a near-liquid consistency when coating glass plates.  I love that moment when I pour some new plates and anticipate the future exposures.  

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Anthony Leyro(non-registered)
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