Why Platinum Palladium

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Richard Boutwell, Point Lobos, 2009

Richard Boutwell, Point Lobos, 2009

I was interviewed over the weekend as part an analternative process even being held in a few cities in China in 2013. One of the questions had to do with the specific aspects of alternative process are most important in terms of my photographic expression, especially now, considering the ease of making extremely fine prints inkjet prints. It has been something that I have been thinking about for sometime, and having to answer it gave me a reason to really solidify those ideas.

Edward Weston, Point Lobos, 1945

Edward Weston, Point Lobos, 1945

There are two aspects to it for me. The first is aesthetic: A lot of my work can be characterized as being visually dense and a little on the darker side of the tonal scale, and for me, the thing I love most about platinum/palladium prints is the chocolate glow of the 3/4 tones—those tones right above the darkest blacks that extend up to the middle grays. Being able to get those deep rich black while still retaining separation in low values gives a print a glow similar to Edward Westons gelatin-silver prints made in the 1930s and 40s that sometimes had little to no tones above a middle gray. When looking at a well made platinum print there is something different about quality of light as it is reflected back to you through the noble metals in the paper than the layer of ink on paper you have with an inkjet print.

The second factor is the actual practice of print making. This is totally personal, but I feel more emotionally connected to an image and a print that I make by hand—from tearing down the paper, to coating, to the processing and washing final display of the print. It just ends up giving me much more personal satisfaction than even a gelatin-silver print.  I think that feeling is the same for a number of photographers as well, and why we have seen a huge resurgence of photographers implementing alternative processes into their work.

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George Tice at Nailya Alexander Gallery

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George Tice has a show that opened last night at New York’s Nailya Alexander Gallery. I wasn’t able to attend the opening, but plan on seeing the show on a trip into NYC next week. The show consists of 16-20×24 paltinum/palladium prints from photographs made between 1970 and 2003. For the last few years Tice has had his enlarged platinum/palladium prints made by a master printer in Belgium, who makes five separation negatives for each incredible print. If you have not had the chance to see large platinum prints up close then this is a show not to miss.

George Tice, Woods, Port Clyde, ME, 1970

We can all give a large thank you to George Tice, who in early 1970s was the first to reintroduce platinum/palladium, publishing The Lost Art of Platinum Printing in 1970 and the process has grown in popularity since.

I first met George when Lodima Press published his book, Common Mementos, in 2005, and I took the 125 books in the hardbound addition to his house to sign and number. Hegave me a biscuit and some old coffee, and then a tour of his darkroom, where he was in the middle of making an internegative from an 8×10 for an platinum print. I was still making 8×10 silver-chloride contact prints at the time, but began printing in platinum a few months later…

Welcome

When I started my personal photo blog in 2007 I made a point of not writing too much about technique. In addition to general updates about my work, I wanted to keep it focused more on theoretical and aesthetic issues. Now that I am printing almost exclusively in platinum/palladium and have experimented with multiple techniques and workflows, I want to write more about the process of printing, to describe what I’ve learned and hopefully make it easier for others to make warm, luminous platinum prints.

I found my post on using fumed silica has been one of the most viewed and searched for subjects on my personal blog, so I’ve started this blog dedicated to the platinum/palladium process to give readers more detailed information about tips and techniques, as well as events and interviews with other platinum/palladium printers and their work. Please be sure to sign up in the sidebar (or click the “follow” button if you are already a wordpress user) to receive email notifications of new posts, updates, and announcements .