I am a platinum printer; it’s an odd title. That’s what happens when you do something long enough- your name gets attached to what you do. The good news is I love platinum printing. I’m happiest in the darkroom making something in platinum. It is more fun than the actual creation of an image. Printing in the darkroom is interpreting light with light. That’s a great way to make a living: relating with others through light.
Before I go further, what is a platinum print? What’s the big deal?
A platinum print uses a solution of platinum and palladium metal salts made light sensitive with ferric oxalate. It is a contact printing process which means a negative the size of the desired image needs to be made. Inkjet printers (which I use to make negatives on overhead transparency film) ushered in a resurgence in several alternative processes. It has made my career possible. Before, there was a three step process of making enlarged negatives that always slightly compromised the quality of the final image. It involved printing the original negative onto a sheet of positive film, then printing that positive on an sheet of film to the the desired size. Making enlarged negatives was as much an art as the platinum printing process.
Platinum prints have always held a certain prestige in the photo world. This has to do with who was making platinum prints when it was commercially available (late 1800’s – early 1920’s): Ed Weston, Alfred Stieglitz, Tina Modotti, Edward Steichen, Paul Strand, F. Holland Day, Peter Henry Emerson, and Gertrude Käsebier.
I print for myself and others. The “others” include, but are not limited to, professional photographers, curators, collectors, amateur photographers, and parents who love their children. I’ve made platinum prints from camera phone images to wet plate collodion negatives. I like the challenge a variety of images presents.
There’s something very human about printing in darkrooms. My job is a bridge to a simpler time in photography. The people I collaborate want to retain the human aspect of image-making. They appreciate and support the art of conversation instead of just talking.