MEET TIM LAYTON
I specialize in making handmade platinum prints using large format view cameras, B&W sheet film, with my hand coated platinum and palladium emulsions. I also make a variety of darkroom prints (Silver Gelatin, Lith, Silver Chloride, etc.).
WHY I CHOSE PLATINUM AS MY FINE ART MEDIUM
Platinum prints are a top choice for collectors and museums because of their long tonal scale, delicate highlight values, separation of mid-tones, and their total permanence. Once you see and experience a platinum print in person, it changes how you look at other images. I will never forget the first set of platinum prints that I viewed from Strand, Weston, Stieglitz, and Steichen. It was like an orchestra was playing in the background of my mind and angels were singing. I left the art museum in a state of awe and I knew exactly what I needed to do in my artwork moving forward.
Platinum prints are completely resistant to oxidation, which is a leading cause of failure in other printing mediums. Platinum is more stable than gold and it is the only true archival photographic process. I love that a 19th-century photographic process continues to outperform all modern technology-centric advances and discoveries in the area of archival permanence. The chemical stability of platinum is a scientific fact, and that will never change.
A platinum print will look the same one thousand years from now which is incredibly important in a world that is digitizing almost every aspect of modern life. In the contemporary world of "selfies" and all things digital, I think it is critical that we continue to make physical prints of our most important subjects. Platinum is the ultimate choice for ensuring our history will be available for future generations.
No computer or special technology is required to make a handmade platinum print, nor is technology needed to view the print in the future making a handmade platinum print a solid choice for investment from a collectors perspective, but also a wise choice when permanence is required. In spite of all the technological discoveries and advances in the modern age, no other photographic printing method possesses the total permanence of platinum.
The most important subjects can be photographed and printed with the platinum process creating a permanent record for future generations. I leverage the total permanence of platinum as I seek out and filter potential subjects. Between evolving climate changes and natural events (e.g. fire, floods, tornadoes, etc.) the landscape and historic architecture is under constant threat of destruction or modification. I select subjects of significant importance and preserve their current state for future generations.
For example, the 2016 wildfires in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park consumed over ten thousand acres of land and forever changed this landscape. The fires were recorded as one the largest natural disasters in the history of Tennessee and the deadliest in the eastern U.S. since the Great Fires of 1947. Several people lost their lives, hundreds were injured, and many homes and businesses were destroyed. Thankfully none of the historic architecture in the national park from the early day pioneer settlers was damaged by the fires this time. This was a wake-up call for me and this single event motivated me to create handmade permanent platinum prints of this historic architecture in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park before it is too late.
I first elected to specialize in the platinum process because of its archival permanence, and then I discovered the beauty and elegance of this medium. I discovered a rich depth and visual presence that I was not able to achieve with any other method. The details that I can render via my platinum processes are important from a visual record perspective, but also from a creative point of view as well.
Platinum prints have a unique matte (non-glossy) surface because the platinum metals are absorbed directly into the fibers and on top of the paper, rather than just sitting on the surface or suspended in gelatin. As a result, the tonal range and separation in tonal values with platinum and palladium creates a richer and deeper feeling often described by collectors and curators as ethereal and emotional. Platinum prints are often described as three-dimensional because they can give the viewer a sense of tactility as if you can step into print or reach out and touch things inside of the image.
Because platinum emulsions are mixed from raw chemicals and coated onto paper by hand, no two prints are exactly alike. Much like if a painter were commissioned to paint the same subject multiple times, the paintings would look similar, but upon closer inspection, each piece of artwork is original and has no duplicate. I go through a rigorous process of selecting papers for each project because the choice of paper not only impacts the permanence of each print but it also impacts the visual aesthetics as well. I am on and endless quest looking for new papers from around the world.
I create platinum prints by placing a large format black and white sheet film negative and platinum emulsion-coated paper in direct contact. The size of the platinum print is equal to the size of the negative. It is impossible to make a platinum enlargement because of the chemical and light properties of the process. The technical skill required to make a negative suitable for platinum prints is a serious undertaking, often taking years to master. It is difficult because the negative has to be near perfect. There are no opportunities for dodging and burning or manipulating errant exposures. The negative is placed in direct contact with the platinum paper and exposed to UV. If you get the negative wrong or your composition is flawed in any way, the print is ruined and you start over again. Collectors know and appreciate the technical skills required to create a proper negative, to even have the chance to make a platinum print.
The negative and sensitized paper combination is exposed to UV light and then developed out in an open tray. During the development stage, the developer chemical is poured over the exposed and sensitized image where the interaction of the sensitizer and developer forms the permanent platinum metals into the fibers of the print. This is a moment in the process where all of the hours of hard work come together in an instant. The image instantly appears as the developer flows over the paper. This magical moment never gets old, no matter how many times you do it.
Historic platinum photographers include Peter Henry Emerson, Frederick Evans, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, Edward Steichen, Edward Weston, and others.
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