The Platinum/Palladium Printing Process
Platinum/palladium prints are known for their beauty, archival stability and unique, one-of-a-kind print statement. Made from the salts of platinum and palladium, these prints are also called “platinotypes” or “platinum” prints.
As with most historical photographic processes, a platinum print is made by placing the negative and emulsion-coated paper in direct contact. Therefore, the size of the photographic print is equal to the size of the negative. In this digital age, however, the negative can be recreated and made to sizes up to 40” although the limitations will be based on the size of the contact “frame” that will hold the digital negative.
Platinum prints have a different “look” from silver gelatin or digital prints. All platinum prints have a matte, not glossy surface, because the sensitizer is absorbed into the paper rather than sitting on the surface. A platinum print also has a more gradual tonal change from black to white. To the eye accustomed to the punch of a silver gelatin print (or digital image), a platinum print will often feel “softer” or lower in contrast. In reality there are actually more steps between pure black and pure white in platinum prints than in a silver gelatin print. This contributes to the deeper, richer feeling you experience when looking at these prints.
My platinum prints are made from hand-mixed and hand-coated emulsions. These sensitizers are mixed just prior to use, coated on the paper with a hake brush. Once dry, the negative is placed in direct contact with the paper, and exposed ultraviolet light. Exposure to the light source takes a few minutes to an hour or more, depending on the density and contrast of the negative.
After developing and clearing to remove the remaining salts, the final print consists of pure platinum (Pt) and palladium (Pd) metallic fragments laid on to and embedded within the paper. The process used today is virtually unchanged from that first patented in 1873.
The paper I use is made from 100% cotton, acid-free, and made for platinum and alternative photo processes. Throughout the whole process including packaging, all tools (brush, rulers, containers, etc.) that were used do not contain any metal parts that would interact with printing therefore you will notice that papers used were all teared with hand and wooden rulers.
The image tone of a platinum/palladium print can vary widely in color. These prints can range from a cool, slightly purple black to split tones of brown and warm black, to a very warm brown. The proportions of platinum to palladium in the emulsion, choice of developers and the temperature of the developer control the final color. Platinum and palladium prints are the most durable and long-lasting of all photographic processes and are guaranteed to last for centuries.
As these emulsions are mixed and coated by hand no two prints are exactly alike. Some practitioners of these historic processes leave brush strokes plainly visible. My goal is to make prints as smooth as possible, but occasionally brush strokes can be seen in some of the prints. They should be seen as the marks of the artist.