The Ultimate Guide
To Silver Gelatin Fine Art
For Art Buyers and Collectors
No other black and white photographic art can match the richness, depth, and definition of silver gelatin prints.
This is why the most discerning art buyers and collectors continue to value handmade silver gelatin fine art photographs, just as they have the last 140+ years.
When you see a very large handmade silver gelatin print hung on the wall that is properly lit, the entire world becomes quiet around you.
The clarity, depth, detail, and tonal values all work together in a way that is unlike any other medium.
My analog film and chemical-based darkroom methods allow me to produce gallery-quality artwork that is unparalleled by modern digital techniques.
I don't outsource any part of my process, so when you receive a silver gelatin photograph from me, you know that my hands were directly involved in every step of the process.
When viewing my black and white silver gelatin photographs, something magical happens that is unexpected. Your mind engages in a way that isn’t possible if the images were in color and you become part of the image with me. We go on a journey together and we become co-creators.
I offer free art consultations for serious art buyers and collectors.
HANDMADE SILVER GELATIN PHOTOGRAPHS
Tim Layton's silver gelatin black and white photographs are created from large format analog film negatives, like the one you see to the left of this text.
Tim follows a museum quality archival workflow that ensures art buyers and collectors will be able to enjoy their artwork for their entire life.
Review Tim's Black and White Fine Art Collectors Guide for more details.
Tim specializes in making very large 30" x 40" and 40" x 60" silver gelatin fine art gallery quality prints for collectors around the world.
Tim Layton's love of nature and wildlife is evident in his commitment and long-standing production of artist original silver gelatin fine art. When you purchase one of Tim's silver gelatin photographs, you know that it was handmade by him in his darkroom and no part of the process was outsourced to external parties.
WHY TIM'S BIG SILVER GELATIN PRINTS ARE SO SPECIAL
"I provide people a unique experience where you, I, and the subjects are brought together to share a unique experience. I do this in a way that simply isn't possible in real life."
When viewing my very large prints, your eyes move around the scene or subject in a way and at a pace that is surreal.
In order to better understand this experience, follow me in this exercise.
Extend your right arm as far as you can in front of you. Elevate your arm about chest height and then position your hand so you are looking at the back of your hand and then spread your fingers apart.
Now, look very closed at your thumb.
Notice how you can see every detail in your thumb, but your other fingers are not in sharp focus?
Now shift your focus to your index finger.
Notice how your thumb and other fingers are now not in sharp focus, but your index finger is sharp and clear?
You can shift your focus to any of your other fingers and the same phenomenon continues.
This simple exercises illustrates how your eyes move through one of my very large silver gelatin prints.
It is impossible to have this experience looking at small digital images on a computer or phone. You need to be in front of the large prints.
I purposely create black and white images because by removing color, your mind processes subjects in a way that is unique and impossible if the prints were in color.
SILVER GELATIN HISTORY
In the middle of the 19th century, it was determined that coating paper with a light-sensitive solution in which the activated silver salts were mixed into a ‘suspension medium’ produced a range of desirable results, including higher sensitivity to light and much sharper images.
For a period of time in the 19th and 20th century, albumen (egg-whites) was the most commercially viable substance to serve this purpose, followed by the use of gelatin. A silver gelatin print then is simply a sheet of paper that has been coated with a very thin layer of fast drying liquid gelatin within which the light sensitive silver salts are suspended.
With the ability to be mass-produced, this became the most widely distributed form of photographic film and paper, spanning the full length of the 20th century up until today.
Most twentieth-century black-and-white photographs are silver gelatin prints, in which the image consists of silver metal particles suspended in a gelatin layer.
Silver gelatin papers are commercially manufactured by applying an emulsion of light-sensitive silver salts in gelatin to a sheet of paper coated with a layer of baryta, a white pigment mixed with gelatin.
The sensitized paper is exposed to light through a negative and then developed out—that is, made visible in a chemical reducing solution.
William Henry Fox Talbot introduced the basic chemical process in 1839, but the more complex gelatin silver process did not become the most common method of printing black-and-white photographs until the late 1910s.
Because the silver image is suspended in a gelatin emulsion that rests on a pigment-coated paper, gelatin silver prints can be sharply defined and highly detailed in comparison to platinum or palladium prints, in which the image is absorbed directly into the fibers of the paper.
From the 1880s through the turn of the twentieth century, Alfred Stieglitz published articles about his experiments with early silver papers in which the image was printed out, or made visible through exposure to light, but no examples exist from his work. From the early 1920s through 1937, he printed on a variety of commercial developing-out gelatin silver papers. The surfaces of his prints range from matte to glossy.
During World War I, when his preferred platinum papers became difficult to obtain, Stieglitz, along with other photographers, experimented with a variety of silver gelatin papers that mimicked platinum prints (also known as platinotypes).
These new faux platinum alternative photographic papers, which were introduced as early as the 1890s, often featured “platino” in their names, such as Platino Matte Surface and Platino Bromide. These papers, offered in a variety of velvety surfaces, provided prints that were advertised as difficult to distinguish from ones made using platinum papers. The matte surface of these silver papers could be imparted by avoiding very smooth paper supports and adding matting agents to the binder such as starch and silica. Various metal salts could be adjusted to create the black and sepia hues typical of platinum prints.
Stieglitz grew to appreciate the surface of the Japine Platinotype that he used during the 1910s. He experimented with gelatin silver papers with semigloss surfaces similar to Japine, along with the occasional matte-surfaced gelatin paper, perhaps to see if the appearance of a new product could match his favorite platinum papers. Stieglitz took the additional step of waxing his silver prints to impart a subtle sheen and a surface appearance similar to Japine.