Having discussed the need to push the project forward with more risk taking approaches, I decided to look into alternative processes for producing prints. Firstly I had looked into the Platinum/Palladium Process. This is long regarded as one of the ways of producing the best archival prints, and was favoured by the pictorialists in particular Alfred Stieglitz, and those featured in his publication Camera Works.
I found that there have been amendments to the initial process that was patented by William Willis in 1873, in particular the Na2 process by Dick Arentz utilising research from Howard Efner and Richard Sullivan (one of the co-founders of Bostick and Sullivan - American Company specialising in Alternative Process Photography).
Mike Ware, has produced a long thesis on the process, and developed some more UK friendly chemical formula, and published his work on his website: https://www.mikeware.co.uk/mikeware/Platino-Palladiotype.html
I have looked into the feasibility of this process, and unfortunately I have came across two stumbling blocks. Firstly, there is the cost. To obtain a kit to produce around 25 8x10 prints (mistakes included), the current price is: £289 in the UK, or $267 from the US. You can bring the cost down by ordering bigger quantities, or by opting for Palladiotypes (a process of just using Palladium, instead of Plato-Palladium). Although I could pick up the kit, the issue of cost may limit the size of prints, the quantity of prints, and the ability to continue to produce prints, if I cannot raise additional funds to buy future stock of the chemicals to ensure completion of the project.
The second issue is one of context. Platinum and Palladium prints are known for there archival nature, and seen as the pinnacle of quality for prints. There is often a reverence associated with them, that would be at odds with my intention of producing prints to be handled and worn through repeated interaction. This could work in my favour to subvert approaches to prints, but at the same time it could be seen as contentious. I am on the fence on whether I would be looking to court controversy of this nature into the project.
I will have to make further decisions on the Platinum and/or Palladium process, instead at the moment I will be looking to try other similar processes, for the likes of Salt Printing, and Albumen Printing.
All of these processes involve a contact printing process where a sensitised paper is then layered with a negative and exposed to ultraviolet light to produce an image. With contact printing there are a few restrictions/qualities I will have to bear in mind. Firstly the print will be the same size as the negative, the enlarger cannot be used, as the lighting has to be UV. This means that either I have to print at 4x5" or look to making larger negatives through a digital process of scanning and printing onto inkjet acetate (although there is the option of enlarging onto lithographic film in the darkroom). I will look to stick to digital negatives at the moment, as I have scanned some so far, and I have some inkjet film to try for this process. I will look to print my findings soon. This will allow me to make larger prints which will allow me to explore some of the suggestions Nicola made in my most recent tutorial.
The second restriction is the lack of control over the look of the print, in comparison to that of an enlargement in the darkroom. The fact that the process is a contract printing approach, means that any alterations would need to be made to the negative or achieved post printing through bleaching and toning. There is a way around this if I am enlarging the negatives, as I could combine digital editing techniques, to make a few changes to the scan, prior to printing out the resized 'negative'. Although there is a moral question of honesty within a digital edit, there can be an argument made to make adjustments to the negative to bring it into line with the scene that was experienced when making the image in the location. There can be an inherent loss of contrast during the developing of the negatives, and subsequently scanning processes. Editing the resulting scans to closer resemble the scene witnessed does not necessarily hold the same ethical concerns as replacing elements of the image to make it more visually appealing. This is a fine line, and one I had found the analogue process to give distance from.
I have ordered a Fotospeed Salt Printing Process Kit, to try the process out. I managed to find one online for £46, and picked up some Arches Platine A5 paper to go along with it. This would allow me to make contact prints of my 5x4" negatives, with some space around them to allow the brush marks of the manual application of the solutions space to frame the prints. Although the kit came with a buckle brush, I decided to buy some foam brushes, as I heard the buckle brush (a test tube with cotton wool - invented by Samuel Buckle) was a bit fiddly to use, and I would want a separate brush for the salt solution and another for the Silver Nitrate. The kit does state it does not come with Ammonia, and that this will need ordered separately. This is to add contrast to the print, and is mixed with the silver nitrate. I haven't ordered any as yet, but will see how the prints turn out, and then pick it up if required. The chemical is Ammonium Chloride, which should be available at Pharmacies or via Silverprint.
I have been watching some good Salt Printing tutorials, which have given me some inspiration to move forward:
The course on LinkedIn Learning is very interesting too, although not Salt Printing based.
Through utilising the Fotospeed kit, I have made a series of salt prints, as documented within the salt printing sketchbook. The prints have had varied degrees of success, as I have been finding my feet by combining a variety of papers with salt solutions for stabilisers. The 3 stabilisers I have all produce a different shade of highlights, as well as midtones and shadows:
Stabiliser Highlights Midtone / Shadow
1: Sodium Chloride Pinkish-Purple Dark Maroon
2: Potassium Iodide Primrose Yellow Brown/Maroon
3: Potassium Bromide Pale Grey - Blue Purple / Brown
These can be combined to create further tones for the highlights and midtones/shadows, and will have a different texture depending on the paper, the application of the silver nitrate (through brush or roller).
One thing I have noticed is that the contrast between tones in the prints can be slight, which can end up with the detail becoming obscured. This has worsened over the gap between my initial printing, and returning to these prints post covid, which due to the length of time, the prints have faded or lost definition. I believe that amending the final stage of printing to wash further or look to add a different way of fixing the prints may enable more longevity in the separation of the tones.
A test strip ranging in 2 minute exposure intervals, from 2 to 10 minutes, on Arches Platine paper with a mix of Sodium Chloride and Potassium Iodide stabilisers (1:1), applied with roller.
A print at 3 minute exposure on Arches Platine paper, with a mixture of Sodium Chloride, Potassium Iodide and Potassium Bromide stabilisers at equal parts. The silver blood at side suggest unexposed silver compound within the paper base that has remained during the washing phase. This can cause the mottling effect of light and dark areas. I looked to different ways of washing the prints, as the process in the guide is vague. However there could also be an aspect of too much silver being applied to the print.
Salt developing and washing.