what is a platinum print?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Printing & Finishing : One Thread

newbie question: how does a platinum print work? is this process obscure or obsolete? are platinum prints considered more archival or "museum-quality?" in what way to they look different from a regular silver print?

-- peter bg (pbg333@hotmail.com), July 28, 2001


The Palladio co. in Cambridge MA 617-393-0814 fax 617-393-0817 email palladio@napc.com has a very nice 24 pg instruction manual for their products. "Instructions for Printing on Palladio Paper" (platinum / palladium)

It give details on the theory as well as construction of the mandatory UV light source and the best way to create same-size contact negatives. I have had the best results using T Max 400 developed in split D-23. Instructions for all of this are in the Palladio instruction pamphlet. The prints last virtually forever; best estimates are 3-500 years if properly done. Pt prints were in use almost exclusively before silver became the standard light sensitive material.

The quality of the prints is different from silver, in that the platinum is deposited right in to the fibre of the paper, not suspended in an emulsion on the surace, so the surface texture of the paper is very prominent. The paper selected is just about the most important determinant in the final result.

Unfortunately one must coat one's own platunim paper as there are no sources of coated paper. Palladio does supply a Platinum/Palladium paper from time to time and this is a bit easier to use.

Processing is very simple using chemicals which majy need a bit of careful handling, but the entire process from exposing the neg to a finished washed print, ready to air dry, takes lass than 1/2 hr.

The tonal range is extremely wide and the colour of the final print can vary from a cool grey to a warm, almost sepia brown, but with a deep lustre totally unavailable from a silver based paper.

Also, much info is available from Bostick & Sullivan and Photographer's Formulary, ( try Google on net) both of whom supply materials in kit form as well as instructions. There are books available: Keepers of the Light, self-published by Louis Nadeau, being about the best. Most large metropolitan libraries carry it: I found it at the Vancouver PL and read it there in 2 hours and made notes.

Go to Google and type in Platinum printing alternative photo processes and you will see what is available. There are more than a few photographers who have sites devoted to their platinum print work.

Dan Burkholder (also on the net)in Texas publishes a great book on making negatives for alternative processes. Great negatives can also be made using photoshop and a good inkjet printer.

I have an exquisite Platinum/Palladium 6 x 9 in. print of a bridge over the Arno River in Florence taken on 35mm T Max 400, scanned then tweaked in Photoshop, then output to a Mylar negative (for 10 bucks and no time at a service bureau!) I also have some great shots of white roses from in-camera 4x5 negs, as well as portraits of my kids using 35 source negs, then enlarged to 8x10 positive on HP5, then contcted to a full size negative on HP5. Robert Mapplethorpe also made some unbeleivablly beautiful Platinum prints of his flowers.

It is a slow, laborious process, but worth it. The exhibit by Horst P. Horst of his fashion photography at the ICP in NYC was all on 16 x 20 Platinum and it was stunning. Many of Julia Margaret Cameron's work is on Platinum as well as that of Paul Strand.

Good luck.

-- RICHARD ILOMAKI (richardjx@hotmail.com), July 28, 2001.

I recently attended the Alternative Process International Symposium in Santa Fe, where I saw a step test printed on both silver-based paper and platinum-coated paper. The comparison was remarkable--the platinum print had easily three stops more tonal range clearly delineated. Platinum is much more permanent than silver. Its only drawback is its slow speed, which allows only for contact printing.

-- Ed Buffaloe (edb@unblinkingeye.com), July 30, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ