Platinum Printing Overview
Platinum prints are noted for their subtlety in rendering the tonalities of the middle grays in particular.
Platinum along with carbon are the most archival types of photographs and impervious to light fading and acid damage.
A platinum print is capable of lasting thousands of years without change.
Many of the Pictorialists, a group of photographers primarily between the years 1880 to 1920, produced some of the most famous photographs to date using the platinum process.
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They did this because of its delicacy of tonal ranges and its potential for expressing the characteristics of more traditional art-making methods. This was a time when photographers were fighting to elevate photography to an art form equal to painting. I feel similar struggles are happening right now between different types of photography.
While digital photography has taken over the masses, it doesn't mean that making handmade platinum prints are any less valuable or special than they were 100 years ago.
In fact, I argue they are even more special today because so few artists continue to create with this medium. The process is time consuming, expensive, delicate, and requires a significant period of time and experience to create masterful pieces of artwork. These ideas are effectively the polar opposite of what the modern digital revolution represents.
Although, strangely enough, the last wave of major change when Kodak took photography to the masses at the turn of the 19th century, there are some parallels between the Kodak revolution and the contemporary movement. The masses once again are moving along like Lemmings and a few like myself dare to stay the same.
One thing is for sure, the current digital revolution will not stay the same and at some point, will be replaced again for something we may not even be able to imagine at this point in time.
The tonal range of platinum is unmistaken once you have seen the difference.
The range of deep blacks to whites evokes an emotional response unlike any other type of print in my opinion.
Unlike the traditional darkroom silver printing method, platinum lies on the paper surface, while silver lies in the gelatin that coats the paper. The absence of a binder layer allows very fine crystals of platinum to be embedded into the paper giving it a depth and 3-dimensional appearance.
Unrivaled by any other printing process, platinum, like gold, is a stable metal, with platinum being the most stable. Because platinum is suspended on matte paper, it is much more diffuse than glossy silver gelatin prints that are prone to specular reflections. It feels like you can fall into the print.
The platinum printing process is based on the light sensitivity of ferric oxalate. Ferric oxalate is reduced by ultra-violet light. The ferrous oxalate reacts with the platinum reducing it to elemental platinum, which builds up the image on the paper. It is possible to vary the contrast and color of the print by varying the amount of oxidizing chemicals and working in coordination with other variables such as the humidity of the emulsion at the time of exposure.
Some of the greatest photographers of all time have created platinum prints to include: Imogen Cunningham, F. Holland Day, Frederick H. Evans, Irving Penn, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, and Edward Weston.
I have personally viewed platinum prints from Irving Penn, Edward Steichen, Alfred Stieglitz, and Paul Strand. I was overtaken by the beauty and emotional impact of their artwork and I continue to push forward keeping these incredible photographer's work in the front of my mind. I hope that I can have a similar impact on others through my platinum prints.
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Keywords: analog photography, black and white, darkroom, fine art, large format, photography, platinum print
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