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Alternative Photographic Processes - (Hand made photographic -emulsions and processes)

Processes - Platinotype

Early Photographic Processes Platinotype From 1874 (and Palladium from 1920s) Discovery Pioneer William Willis jun. (1841-1923) had been been looking for ways to make photographs with the most suitable metal he cold think of. In 1874, the British Journal of Photography announced his Platinum Printing process. It gave a report of the process on 4 June 1875. William Willis jun. continued to refine his process until 1878. Comments from 1884 WK Burton, in his book ABC of Modern Photography gave the following brief comments on the Platinotype process: "All the appliances for platinum printing are to be had from the Platinotype Company, 26 Southampton Row, High Holborn, London WC, and with them the instructions so full and concise, are issued, that we need only briefly describe the process." [See below] "The one thing which requires great constant attention is the keeping the paper thoroughly dry. It has to be kept in a metal case with a small quantity of calcium chloride, when not actually in the frames, and when in these, it is necessary to keep a thin sheet of india-rubber behind it." Process Comments from 1870s Creating the Print 1. Size plain paper with starch. (The paper should have been first floated for 2 or 3 seconds on a three-grain solution of nitrate of silver.) 2. Clip the paper on top of a sheet of glass. 3. Pour a mixture of ferric oxalate and chloro-platinite on to the centre of the sheet. Spread with a cotton wool pad then make even with a soft fabric. 4. Place the paper on a frame to dry. 5. Place a negative in the frame over the paper, and expose to light (for about a fifth of the time that would be required for a print on albumenised silver paper.) 6. At this stage, a feint image will have formed, from the ferrous oxalate, but no image yet from the platinum © 7. Draw the pictures over the surface of a warm solution of potassic oxalate (prepared earlier by the decomposition of carbonate of potash and oxalic acid). 8. The picture immediately appears. © The result should be a strong rich picture, in a warm rich velvety-black tone. [BJP, 4 Jun 1875: p.265] Finishing the Print At this stage, the print is permanent, but further steps can be taken to improve it. 9. Place the print in a very weak solution of oxalic acid. (This dissolves the ferric oxalate, and brings out pure whites in the print.) Then, rinse in plain water. 10. To give the print a warmer appearance, it can be gold-toned, then placed in a bath of hyposulphite of soda, then rinsed. [BJP, 4 Jun 1875: p.265] Comments from 1880s Creating the Print WK Burton, in his book ABC of Modern Photography, published in 1884, gave a brief account of the Platinotype process. This differs in some respects from the 1875 description given above: - The prints have to be developed by floating them on the surface of a hot solution containing 130 grains of oxalate of potash to each ounce of water. A flat iron dish is the best to operate with. - The solution is kept at a temperature of 170 or 180 Fahr., by means of a spirit lamp or Bunsen burner. The process of development is a most beautiful one. The print, before it is developed is only just visible. It is placed thus on the surface of the solution and in a few seconds there is removed a picture most perfect in colour and gradation of tone. - The developed print is transferred to a dish containing one part of hydrochloric acid in sixty parts of water. It passes to a second, and then to a third, similar bath, remaining a few minutes in each. - It is then washed for about a quarter of an hour in several changes of water, after which it is finished. [ABC of Modern Photography] The Negative WK Burton added: - Negatives which are just somewhat too dense for silver printing give excellent results with platinum. - Any negative, however, which will give a good silver print, will give a good platinum print. [ABC of Modern Photography] Comments from 1890s Papers A Horsley Hinton, in his book Platinotype Printing, published in 1898 referred to there being two types of platinotype paper: - Paper for the hot process: this paper is developed in a hot solution of oxalate of potash - Paper for the cold process: this paper is developed in a cold solution of oxalate of potash. Both of these papers were available in a choice of surfaces, differing in stoutness and smoothness: A - smooth, thin B - smooth, stout C - rough, very stout [Platinotype Printing: A Horsley Hinton, p.21] Toning A Horsley Hinton gave advice on toning. Some of his chemicals suggested were expensive (and may well not be safe by current standards). In particular, he recommended: - uranium toning to produce a brown or red brown colour with ordinary black-printing platinotype paper. - adding bichloride of mercury to the oxalate developer to produce browner colour. - gold toning to produce colder bluer blacker tones. [Platinotype Printing: A Horsley Hinton, pp.67-75] Palladium in the 1920s Platinum became very expensive in the 1920s, causing photographers to change from using platinum to palladium salts. The two processes were very similar and produced similar results. Result © Please click here to see more examples of Platinotype photos. Platinotype photos were highly regarded. They often had a good range of grey tones from silver to black, but could also be produced in warm brown tones. The platinum was embedded in the fibres of the paper and did not fade. 1870s The British Journal of Photography [4 Jun 187, p.265] said: "The tones of the pictures thus produced are most excellent, and the latter possess a charm and brilliancy we have never seen in a silver print upon plain paper, added to which they are so permanent as to resist all the usual destructive tests." 1880s WK Burton, in his 1884 book described the colour of Platinotype prints as being: "not brown or purple, but a feint greyish-brown colour." [ABC of Modern Photography] 1890s A Horsley Hinton, in his book Platinotype Printing, published in 1898 wrote: "Whilst amongst most persons of more or less cultivated tastes the effects secured by platinotype and by carbon printing are preferred, one still meets many who will unhesitatingly proclaim their preference for the more old-fashioned silver print ... ..." "Thus, for example, if I have prints on platinotype paper and on a fine glossy-surfaced gelatine or albumen paper, and lay them before a child of twelve years, I expect him to show preference for the latter (the mere brightness and glossiness are a sufficiently superior attraction); or if I show them to my servant or a person of less cultivation, I shall be surprised if he does not show preference for the print of high surface, and which appears to him to possess properties which the other lacks; ... ... ... ... ..." "But when later on we grow to value such prints and pictures for the sake of the thoughts they suggest, for the pleasure they give as suggestions of nature in her more beautiful phases, or for the faithful reminiscence of a familiar face, then it is that the qualities of platinotype are appreciated, quite apart from the question of permanence, which is the proverbial character of the platinotype." [Platinotype Printing: A Horsley Hinton, p.7]


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