Platinum / Palladium
The platinum print process was invented in 1873 by William Willis. Simply stated, this printing process is the most stable/archival, and beautiful image possible in a photographic process. The tonal range is absolutely stunning. Platinum prints are the pinnacle of fine art photography, and always leave a lasting impression on the viewer.
Basically speaking, the process is contact printing a negative (preferably larger size) directly on the paper, & involves hand-brushing platinum solution over a piece of printing paper, allowing the platinum particles to soak in to the paper and embed the image into the fibers of the paper. Unlike traditional black & white silver gelatin photos, the image is bordered by distinctive brushed edges of the platinum solution, creating a one of a kind print that is a remarkable work of art.
Commercially available platinum printing papers came into existence in the early 1880’s and by the turn of the century platinum prints were very popular, valued both for their beauty and their intrinsic permanence. Platinum metals are the most inert metals in existence, which contributes greatly to the extreme archival stability of platinum prints.
Platinum / palladium prints are the most archival, permanent images available. The images will last thousands of years due to the stability of the metals. There is a reported case where platinum prints aboard a sunken ship were brought to the surface 20 years later and found to be in excellent condition.
With the onset of World War I, platinum family metals were hard to come by and by the early 1940’s commercially produced platinum papers were no longer available. Print makers who desire the unique and beautiful qualities of platinum create their own paper by mixing the light-sensitive chemicals and coating the paper by hand.
Platinum prints are valued by galleries, museums, and art collectors, both for their archival stability as well as their unmatched beauty. Although difficult and costly to create, platinum prints are the sine qua non of photographic art.
Creating a single platinum/palladium print takes many difficult and exacting steps, including the proper execution of the original negative/plate. The negative is exposed to UV light (or sunlight) for minutes, as opposed to seconds of incandescent light for standard darkroom silver prints. These images represent a labor of love that is well worth the effort.
While attending Oregon State University, a professor suggested that I make some platinum/palladium prints. From the very first print, I was addicted, and fell in love with the process and image results.
See my platinum prints here:
platinum / palladium prints
More on Platinum Printing:
“Video -The Platinum Print: Photographic Process