A collection of very brief technical descriptions of the processes used in the making of the fine art images on these pages.
"The Black Art"
Wet Plate collodion on glass or tin plates was first developed in the 1850's. Plates had to be coated, sensitized, shot and processed within approximately a 10 minute window before its coating dried. This required the photographer to bring along his darkroom, chemicals and the large heavy camera equipment he used where ever he was taking photos. This included hauling it out to remote locations when shooting landscapes, scenics or other far away subjects. The process was messy and cumbersome. Black stains on the hands from the extremely toxic, dangerous chemicals used and the numerous fatalities that resulted in the mishandling of these poisonous chemicals was the reason it was known as "The Black Art".
in detail : "The Black Art"
The calotype was an early process introduced in 1841 by William Fox Talbot, using paper sheets covered with silver chloride. The image was fixed salt solution - potassium iodide or hypo. It may be described as the application of silver iodide to a paper support. Carefully selected paper was brushed over with a solution of silver nitrate, and dried by the fire. It was then dipped into a solution of potassium iodide where it was allowed to stay two or three minutes. In this state it is scarcely sensitive to light, it is then sensitized by brushing "gallo-nitrate of silver" over the surface.. The prepared surface is then ready for exposure in the camera, and, after a short insolation, develops itself in the dark, The picture is then fixed by washing it in clean water and drying slightly in blotting paper, after which it is treated with a solution of potassium bromide, and again washed and dried. This process was the first to use a negative image that can be reused to produce several positive prints. Its primary weakness was in the reliance on a paper surface, as the fiber patterns and other imperfections were inevitably reproduced in prints. One available solution was to use a glass plate negative, but first it was necessary to find a way to bind the chemicals to the glass. This was accomplished in the early 1850s with the development of the collodion process, after which the calotype became obsolete.
I started this body of work back in 1984 when I stumbled upon a technique creating an image that was very unique. I hadn’t then, nor to this day, seen anything like them. After much experimenting, I managed to gain control of the process with predictable results.
These images are created in the darkroom. A conventional camera is not needed. Many different materials are used in this process that are used in the current photographic process with some dating back to the 1830's. These images are like snowflakes with no two being exactly alike. The basics of photography are explored here. The images are created from first exposing silver to light to create parts of the image and then by processing with chemistry. Just like in photography, variables in time, temperature and handling have significant effects.
The photographic materials and variables used in creating these images consist of hand made emulsions, commercially made films, toxic and deadly chemicals, lights of different colors and spectrums, temperature variations and especially time - a lot of time.
The combining of these elements at critical times in the process, then subjecting them to extreme temperatures and aging, produces these beautiful abstract images.
The daguerreotype announced in 1839, is one of the earliest types of photograph's in which the image is exposed directly onto a mirror-polished surface of silver bearing a coating of silver halide particles deposited by iodine vapor. In later developments bromine and chlorine vapors were also utilized, resulting in shorter exposure times. Unlike later photographic processes that supplanted it, the daguerreotype is a direct positive image making process without a "negative" original therefore, no reproduction of the picture could be made unless rephotographed giving you a daguerreotype copy.
Wood, paper, cardboard, glass, steel, the dog, or whatever else I can abuse. I make my own emulsion passing on the store baked brands. The sub surface needs to be light in tone if normal subjects are to be photographed so some preparation such as bleaching painting or toning may be needed. I have applied emulsions by either dipping, brushing or spraying them. With a conventional enlarger I then print a negative on to the surface with the emulsion. Processing chemicals are usually sprayed on with pump spray bottles. The image can then be treated as any silver gelatin print by toning or hand coloring. The possibilities are endless.
Were invented by William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1877). Photogenic drawings were prepared by soaking a piece of good quality drawing paper in a weak solution of common salt, allowing this paper to dry, brushing it with a solution of silver nitrate, and then further washing it in a strong solution of common salt. Exposure was usually made by contact printing for as long as it took an image to appear. This image would then be fixed: Talbot used a strong solution of common salt for this or, occasionally, potassium iodide; Herschel's hypo fixer (sodium thiosulphate) dissolved away any remaining silver nitrate more efficiently and subsequently became the standard for all silver processes.
One of the problems with the calotype process was that since you had to print through the paper negative, the imperfections of the paper would also show. Care was taken to ensure that the right kind of paper was used, The more transparent the paper, the greater the definition. It was quite a common practice to wax the calotype negative after it had been developed and fixed. However, In 1852 Gustave Le Gray introduced a process whereby waxing was part of the process prior to exposure and development. Le Gray's process also enabled the paper to be kept a week or so before use. Although it showed a definite improvement in definition, it was also slower than the calotype process; sometimes exposures of up to fifteen minutes in sunshine were required. It was for this reason that most of the subjects used in this process were inanimate.