Paper choice is critical in the platinum printmaking process, arguably, more than all other photographic processes. That may sound like a bold statement, but since the platinum print is the most archival of all photographic processes, the weak link in the process is the paper for skilled printers.
I have been printing with Hahnemühle Platinum Rag Paper for almost a year now and I have made over 100 prints so far. Some of the key characteristics of my paper choice besides archival performance include exposure range, texture, and color (tonal values).
If my paper choice can't provide the archival characteristics I need, then nothing else really matters. Hahnemühle Platinum Rag is 100% cotton, has no optical brighteners, acid-free, and it is uncoated. These are key elements that I believe a good platinum paper must have. Hahnemühle Platinum Rag is a substantial paper at 300 gsm and has some sizing which allows me to easily make consistently high-quality coatings with my very expensive platinum emulsion. I coat with a brush and this paper is well suited to my coating style.
I have extensively tested Hahnemühle Platinum Rag from an exposure range perspective because it is critical that my paper can take advantage of platinums very broad tonal range. I am able to make pure platinum prints with none of the issues often associated with pure platinum. I think it is a combination of the paper and my choice of development chemicals and my printmaking methodology. I am able to vary the tonality of my prints from classic pure platinum monochromatic to the warmer tones associated with palladium. I find that Hahnemühle Platinum Rag warms up with just a single drop of palladium and the midtones are very smooth and gradual. I love having the ability to make pure platinum, pure palladium, or platinum/palladium prints with this paper.
In addition to exposure range, tonal values and density are important because I feel these aesthetics are the heart of the print. I love showing my platinum prints to people that have never seen one before.
The average person has no idea what they are looking at beyond the idea that it is a photograph. It is a joy for me to watch someone look at the print and slowly start asking questions because they have never seen a platinum photograph in their life. Most people instinctively know that what they are looking at doesn't look anything like a modern digital photograph. Watching them realize they are looking at something very special makes all my hard work worth it.
Enjoy the video below where I share some of my artist proofs. I created pure platinum, pure palladium, and platinum/palladium prints on Hahnemühle Platinum Rag to explore which version I liked best for my project.
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