Maine Workshop, Postscript

The workshop officially ended Friday night with a great multimedia presentation of work from all of the workshops that week. It was pretty cool to see several of my images projected on a theater sized screen.

But thanks to the generosity of our instructor Tillman Crane, there was a wonderful unexpected bonus in store for some of us on Saturday morning. We were invited to visit his home and studio in nearby Camden, Maine, for a demonstration of platinum-palladium printing.

The process is on one hand complex, yet in other ways fairly straighforward. First, Tillman mixes small amounts of several chemicals, including platinum and palladium, into a solution that is coated onto the paper. By varying the amount of each element, he can control contrast and tone in the print. Once the paper is dry (he uses a hair dryer to dry the paper in just a couple of minutes!) he sets up the negative and paper in a vacuum contact printing frame and exposes the print in a specially made light box where the paper is exposed to high intensity ultra-violet light.

From there, the print is developed in a process that is very similar to the processing of a silver print except that the chemicals are different.

Platinum-palladium prints have a different look from traditional silver prints. My perception is that while the prints are rich in tone, the blacks are typically not quite as deep, but the tonal transitions are beautifully smooth. The prints generally have a slight warm tone to them but that is controllable by the chemical mix in the emulsion.

The darkroom for platinum printing is not nearly as dark as in a standard darkroom for silver printing. The emulsion is primarily sensitive to UV light so the room is lit with 40-watt “bug” lights and the paper is perfectly safe. I realized that for old-time platinum printers – the process was invented in the 1880s – the only way to expose the paper was to set the print frame out in the sun!

All in all, it was a great week. I thoroughly enjoyed Tillman’s workshop and the others in the class were diverse, interesting, and very talented. While I learned much from Tillman, I also got valuable insights from my classmates.

I waited a long time to take the plunge into one of these workshops. Having done so, I am already hoping to return for another, and another.

~ by Rsmith on August 15, 2009.

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