The Mark of Time, Albumen and Palladium Prints
“I create images to transform the ‘reality’ seen through the camera lens into expressions of the ‘oneness’ and wonder found in Buddhist/Taoist philosophy and on illustrations of those psychological archetypes found in cultural remnants left behind rather than the evanescence of contemporary culture.”
- Timothy H. McCoy, Photographer
Gallery Exhibit: August 24, 2015 and through October 15, 2015
Lecture with the Photographer, September 21 at 6:00pm in BRAGG 103
Reception follows in The Baldwin Photographic Gallery
What Is an Albumen Print?
Albumen printing was the dominant photographic process from the 1850s until the 1890s. The first commercially available albumen photographic paper was produced in 1854. Albumen photographs mounted on mounting boards were printed for sale as portraits of famous people or as tourist souvenirs.
During the Civil War, small portraits mounted 2 1/2 x 4” cards became extremely popular because soldiers, their families, and their friends could exchange portraits before being separated by war.
In today’s version of albumen printing, I create a 16 x 20” negative transparency from either a scanned 8 x 10” negative or a digital capture. Just as was done in the 1800s, I obtain the albumen by cracking dozens of eggs and separating the yolks from the whites. The whites are beaten to a stiff meringue and allowed to sit overnight while the albumen settles to the bottom of the jar as a beautiful pale yellow liquid. The meringue is removed the next day, and the albumen allowed to age from one month to years.
I then float Canson sketching paper on a salted albumen solution in a large glass tray and allow it to dry. (This is the same paper used in the 1800s.) Then, the albumenized paper is floated on a 20% silver nitrate solution for three minutes. After floating, the coated paper is sensitive to light. The paper and the enlarged negative are sandwiched together in a vacuum frame and exposed to ultraviolet light. After washing to remove excess silver, the image is toned in a solution of gold chloride mixed with a small amount of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and washed.
What Is a Palladium Print?
Palladium and platinum printing (platinotype process) was the dominant printing method from the 1890s to the 1930s. Both metals are considered “noble” because they resist oxidation and are very stable, making them ideal for the most archival prints possible. Initially, platinum was used in the process, but it became very expensive in the early 1900s. (During World War I, Great Britain declared it a strategic metal and its use in photography was forbidden.)
The palladiotype process, using palladium instead of platinum prints, was introduced in 1916. Palladium prints have a longer tonal range, a warmer tone, and deeper blacks than platinum. The process requires contact printing a negative the size of the final image under ultraviolet light. A wide variety of papers can be used.
To create the palladium print, I make a 16 x 20” negative transparency from either a scanned 8 x 10” negative or a digital capture. I coat the translucent vellum paper by brushing on the palladium solution using an ordinary paint brush. After exposing the paper and the transparency to ultraviolet light, I develop the paper in warm (100 degrees) potassium oxalate.