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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-Tim Layton 

The Darkroom Underground is your analog photography magazine produced on a quarterly basis serving photographers, artists, collectors, and readers around the world. Publications are released on Jan 1st, Apr. 1st, July 1st, and Oct. 1st.  The Darkroom Underground publishes a balance of technical and creative articles in every issue along with featured photographers and their portfolios. We are pleased to offer editorial from internationally recognized photographers and writers and also publish articles and portfolios from our readers. 

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Tim Layton
B&W Fine Art Analog Photography
Darkroom Underground Magazine: www.darkroomunderground.com
Darkroom & Large Format Training: www.timlaytonfineart.com/workshops
© Tim Layton Sr. | All Rights Reserved



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