Friday, 23 November 2007

Irving Penn Private View @ Hamiltons Gallery

Hell's Angel (Doug),San Fransico, 1967

Got back from Photo Paris on Sunday (will write up on blog in the next few days, its quite long a long post!) Whilst at the event I was very kindly invited by Charlie Fellowes at Hamiltons Gallery(Mayfair, London) to a private view of Irving Penn’s prints from the 60’s. The show appropriately entitled ‘Flower Power’ was a collection of Penns platinum/palladium prints, silver gelatine, colour dye transfer prints and pigment prints from that decade. The private view took place last wednesday evening.

The colour dye transfer prints of flowers were quite stunning, the intensity of the colours was very special, and nothing I have ever seen before. The prints of flowers were almost clinical in detail reminisant of Mapplethorpe's flower portraits, compositionally the flowers looked perfect. I believe Penn shot these for Vogue in late 80’s for their Christmas editions.

Single Oriental poppy, Irving Penn 1965, Colour Dye transfer

For those interested in Colour transfer prints Wikpedia defines them as :

‘The dye transfer process is a continuous-tone color photographic printing process, popularized by the Eastman Kodak Company in the 1940s. It is sometimes referred to by such generic names as wash-off relief printing and dye imbibition transfer printing. The process involves making three matrices for each color, which absorb dye in proportion to the density of the relief. A color print is formed, by transferring the dyed film matrices in physical contact onto a mordanted dye receiver paper. Eastman Kodak Company stopped making materials for this process in the mid 1990s. The dyes used in the process are very spectrally pure compared to normal coupler induced photographic dyes, with the exception of the Kodak cyan. Also the dyes have excellent light and dark fastness. The dye transfer process possesses the largest color gamut and tonal scale than any other process, including inkjet. Another important characteristic of dye transfer is it allows the practitioner the highest degree of photographic control compared to any other photochemical color print process.’

Penn’s platinum/palladium prints on show were also exceptional and were shots of Hippes and Hell angels, great characters and they all had a real instensity to them. I remember reading a desription of Penn's time with the 'Angels' in which he said 'They were like coiled springs ready to fly loose and make trouble. The delays and provocations they could produce were endless. Fortunately the hypnotizing lens of the camera and the confinement of the studio held them in check long enough for the exposures to be made'. The prints did not have the kind of intensity I thought they might have had having read so much about them in he past, however on closer inspection their was a beautiful subtlety to them with velvety blacks which the process is so well known for producing. I would have liked to have seen them without glass in front of them but alas.

My friend and I arrived half way through the private view and the gallery was buzzing with atmosphere, I was told to expect the whole glitterati to be out in force and this seemed to be the case. Yasmin Le Bon arrived fashionably late looking stunning and had a quick look around at the prints, she did look in a buying mood which can only have been good for the gallery. Overall it was a really enjoyable evening.

The prices for the collection of prints on show ranged from $20,000 to $120,000 and the exhibition runs through to 12th January for further information please goto

Friday, 9 November 2007

A bit short notice but on Sunday 11th November there is a London photograph fair. The fair, which is in its 18th year, is devoted solely to the sale of photographic images from the 19th and 20th century, and to books on the history and art of photography.

The fair has a friendly, clubbable feel about it and is held in the comfortable surroundings of the Bonnington Hotel. It is the place for friends to meet, swap and sell rare photographs and generally catch up on the gossip.

The quality of material offered is high, and covers cased images, stereo cards, rare topographical images and albums, art prints including Emerson and Cameron, and 20th century prints by Ponting and the pictorialist school. The fair also has probably the finest range of rare and out of print books on the art and history of photography assembled anywhere in Europe.

For further details please visit

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Pont-Neuf, Paris

In keeping with the Paris theme, the above scan was a photograph I took around this time last year. It’s a polymer photogravure on Japanese paper that i printed yesterday. It’s a challenging process to master but I will keep trying to work out the finer points of the process as it can create quite unique prints that know other photographic process can replicate. An artist that I have recently found on the internet who works exclusively in this process is Kari Holopainen you can see his work here :
On his site he also describes in detail how to go about creating polymer photogravure's.

Paris Photo 07

I have been rather busy since my last upload and I will update in the next few days on my visit to Stroud and the lecture by Platinum printers Paul and Max Caffell.

Paris Photo 2007 is next week from the 15th November and I have booked my tickets to go. Its one of the highlights of the year for me as you get to see the whole spectrum of photographic prints from vintage to contemporary. Nearly all the major players in the photographic world attend and it really is a worthwhile event to goto if you can make it. I will write up the visit on my return. For further infotmation please visit :

Sunday, 28 October 2007

Cyanotype & Platinum/Palladium Workshops

I will be starting my workshop programme from November 2007 and it will include separate workshops on Cyanotype and Platinum/Palladium printing. They will be held at my home in Cottenham (6 miles north of Cambridge).

The workshops will be one day either in the week or weekend, which ever is most convenient for the participants. I have deliberately kept the maximum class size down to 2 people as this will facilitate more personal tuition. Both workshops will include all materials such as transparency materials for creation of negatives, printing paper, chemicals, paper, Printing Handbook with cd etc.. and lunch.

A workshop handbook is provided on the day and covers in detail the following themes, all of which will be addressed on the day.

1) Introduction: Platinum printing in the 21st Century
2) Introduction to Digital Negatives
3) Chemicals needed to create your first Platinum/Palladium Print
4) Health & Safety
5) Importance of Keeping Notes
6) Suitable Papers for Platinum/Palladium Printing
7) Methods of Contrast Control for Platinum/Palladium printing
8) Creating your first Platinum/Palladium print
8.1) Preparing and coating the paper
8.2) Exposing the coated sensitized paper to Ultraviolet light
8.3) Developing the print
8.4) Preparing the Clearing baths and Clearing the print
8.5) Drying the print
9 ) Calibrating your own system

The workshop hand book also includes 2 cd’s

Workshop cd 1 includes : Platinum printing curves
Calibration images
Step wedges
Examples of platinum prints

cd 2 includes : all edited images with correction curves made on the day

Below shows two participants of the workshop viewing their final prints at the end of the day

Examples of prints produced on the workshop by participants have included the following :

The Lone Tree,Mark Burley

Portwrinkle Beach,Mark Burley

Train Wheels,Phil Dresser

Sea Alter,Mark Burley

Steps, Phil Dresser

Ridge, Phil Dresser

If you are interested and would like further information including the workshop program please email me at

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Major Edward Steichen Exhibition

I have always loved Edward Steichen's work and was fortunate enough to view some of his gum over platinum prints at Photo Paris last year. I will be going to this years Photo Paris which takes place at the Carrousel Du Louvre from 15-18 November. It just so happens this large Exhibition on Steichen's work will be displayed in Paris too at the Jeu de Paume from 10th October to 30 December.

For those that have not heard of him, Edward Steichen was one of the key figures in the history of photography. Beginning as a leading exponent of the 19th-century romantic movement called Pictorialism, where he produced some extraordinary prints, his most famous being Moonrise, printed in 1904, For this print Steichen used unique alternative photographic printing techniques to establish depth and richness of tones. I believe there are only three prints of ‘moonrise’ in existence and they are all printed slightly differently. Below shows one that was a multiple gum over platinum print :

Edward Steichen (1879– 1973): “The Pond-Moonlight” (1904); New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art; multiple gum bichromate over platinum, 15¼ × 19".)

In February last year this print sold for the highest price to date for an art photograph. (This has recently been eclipsed by a Gursky print)

Another version of 'Moonrise' was a cyanotype over platinum print shown below :

(Edward Steichen (1879–1973): “Moonrise-Mamaroneck,New York” (1904); New York, Museum of Modern Art (MoMA); platinum, cyanotype, and ferroprussiate print, 15¼ × 19".)

After Steichen's Pictorialism phase he metamorphosed rapidly into one of the leading photographers of modernism. For more than half a century he occupied centre stage as the most famous living photographer, the medium’s first household name. However, until now Steichen, a Luxembourger by birth has never been the subject of a significant retrospective in Europe. This show will have around 450 vintage prints and I can’t wait to view them. I will write a short review when i return from Paris.

For further information on the Paris exhibition visit :

This exhibition will move to other European Venues including:

Musée de l’Elysée, Lausanne January 17-March 23, 2008

Palazzo Magnani, Reggio Emilia April 12-June 8, 2008

Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid June 24-September 22, 2008

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

The Genius of Photography

I was looking around my local Borders and came across a book called 'The Genius of Photography' which has just been published to go alongside the BBC show of the same name. The book actually looked quite interesting and worth a read.

Touted as ‘the first comprehensive television history of the most influential art form of the present day. This landmark series for BBC2 and BBC4 will explore the key events and images that have marked the development of photography. At the heart of the series will be a quest to understand what makes a truly great photograph.’

The series begins in a palazzo on the Grand Canal, Venice. Using bin-liners and masking tape, photographer Abe Morell turns a room into a camera. He cuts a small hole to let a tight beam of light into the blacked-out room and, with it, the outside world comes pouring in – upside down and twice as natural, thereby demonstrating one half of the simple but profound physical principles on which photography is based.

The other half – the problem of "fixing the shadows" – took longer to solve but, when that was done by two rival methods announced in 1839 by Henry Fox Talbot and Louis Daguerre, photography was born.

The series is six 1 hour shows, the first episode called ‘Fixing the Shadows’ tells the story of the inventions of photography and the way in which it became an integral part of the modern world. It describes the remarkable achievements of the pioneer photographers, the revolution that took place when George Eastman made photography available to the masses with the invention of the Kodak brand and the story of Jacques-Henri Lartigue, the child photographer and ultimate amateur.

For those of us in the U.K this is listed as airing on Thurs 24th Oct as 9-10pm, BBC4.

For a video clip check this link

Dye based negative vs Pigment based negative

Over the last few days I have been testing the difference between Dye based ink jet digital negatives (Epson 1290) and Pigment based digital negatives (Epson 3800) when printing with platinum/palladium.

The above shows the two prints side by side, the print on the left I used a pigment based inks to create the negative, dye based on the right.(click on the print to see larger version) The difference is quite obvious and I would be interested to hear which print people prefer.

My initial findings show that the dye based negative seems to be blocking a lot more UV light than the pigment based negative and resulting in a significantly more contrasty print. The print has more ‘punch’ to it. I like it, as it has a certain luminosity to it, however I am not arriving at the print I expected when I finished editing the negative in PS.

The pigment based negatives on the other hand gives a good rendition of what I see in P.S but lacks the luminosity of the dye based negative print. I need to find some half way point between the two prints and believe I have two options to achieve this.

Either adjust the curve in PS for the pigment based negative or try and boost contrast through the platinum/palladium chemistry (i.e more drops of ferric oxalate #2) I prefer the former option to the later as this will add more grain to the final print. I will try both options and post the result.

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Meet up with Mike Ware (inventor of the cyanotype II process)

Mike kindly invited me over for lunch with his wife at his lovely house in Buxton. The drive to the peak district was quite special. Mike and his wife were very hospitable and it was a real pleasure to meet such a kind and generous man.

An expert in all things related to alternative processes and their conservation, Mike has written extensively about many alternative processes including my favourite the ‘Cyanotype II’ process which he invented. Mike has also devised a ‘Platinum/Palladium II’ process that attempts to address some of the shortcomings of the original process. ( For full details of this and any other related processes visit his website at

We spent a good few hours looking through his own wonderful collection of prints that he has produced over the last 25 years. Including Cyanotype II, Argyrotypes, Platinum/Palladium II and his latest Gold prints. The above image is one of Mike’s Cyanotypes and was taken on a visit in Sicily in 1989 (10x8 print). Having seen the print in real life I must say it is one of the most luminous prints I have seen, it simply glows.

He also has a stunning collection of prints on the walls around the house that friends have given him over the years, some truly stunning platinum/palladium prints by Pradip Malde . Another highlight was a print by father and son team the ‘Caffels’ at (studio 31) who specialise in printing some of the most beautiful prints one will ever see.

Coming from a chemistry background Mike initially looks at alternative processes from a different angle to myself which is really very interesting. At the moment I am strictly interested in the aesthetic appeal of alternative processes, Mike also has this passion but goes a lot deeper into how various chemicals react with each other and how alternative processes can be improved/modified as well as their conservation.

I am not sure but I believe Kenro Izu uses Mikes formula for his cyanotype over platinum prints ( Bostick and Sullivan have posted one of Izu’s Cyanotype images next to where they sell the Cyanotype II sensitizer ). I have tried to arrange for him to see some of Izus Cyanotype over platinum prints at the Howard Greenberg gallery in New York next time Mike is over there as I was amazed the first time I saw them, truly breathtaking work. I look forward to hearing his reaction to the prints.

All in all it was a very special day for me to finally meet the man who inadvertently helped me, through the invention of the Cyanotype II process, to discover how wonderful and challenging in equal measures alternative photographic processes can be .

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Arches Platine & Cyanotype

Spent another day printing although this time just in cyanotype, i am really enjoying printing with Arches Platine as the luminosity of the final print is quite special if you get the negative right. People have told me that Fabriano Artistico Bright white is also an excellent paper to try with both cyanotype and platinum, although it requires a pre soak of 4% oxalic acid to take away the alkaline which a lot of these watercolour papers seem to have these days. Quite a productive day, a few prints might be 'keepers' but will wait for the dry down tomorrow before 'counting chickens'.

I was finally able to successfully print my largest contact print too, below shows the print hang drying. The full sheet is 20x16 and the actual print size is 11x14. Some slight solarisation around the edges although it does not show to much.

The paper i used to use for all my cyanotype prints (Fabriano Rospina) became very difficult to coat large sheets using a glass rod as the sensitizer was absorbed to quickly. With the Arches Platine I am usually able to coat successfully with a 17” glass rod as the surface is very smooth and is not absorbed as quickly which is great news as i have wanted to print larger prints for a while now.

Cyanotype over Platinum (First results)

I was able to get the pre sized Platinum print to register with the cyanotype negative, with quite a bit of masking tape i might add!! The above scan shows the result. The Cyanotype layer i think is too strong and needs to be more subtle so i think i will half the exposure time on next few prints either that or adjust the cyanotype negative, not sure which approach to take yet but will try something. I really want to keep some of the luminosity of the platinum layer.

Below is the first result uncropped which shows my rather clumsy methods! :)

Friday, 28 September 2007

Ahh Registration!!

Turns out the registration was about 1mm out on the print without the pre size (see above image), the pre sized print was out by about 1/2mm, although the later appers more blochy in the highlights. I believe a registration difference even this small might make cause the final print to lose sharpness and i would prefer not to if at all possible.

On the plus side the inadvertant change to dye based inks to print the platinum negative has resulted in a much more luminous print than the print made with the pigment ink negative. Having looked on the net it has been suggested that the 'pre size' soak should be in warm water (125f) for an hour, as opposed to the 5 mins i gave it last night. I have now done this and will try printing another platinum print to see if it will register on the cyanotype negative.

New Cyanotype over Platinum print

Spent all day calibrating as i want to see how a cyanotype over platinum looks, cant afford one of Kenro's yet, I think they start at $3500!

Its going to require some sort of registration which could be problamatic for me as i have never done it before. The above image shows some of the calibration prints i did to see how the two prints will come together. One had a sizing bath before exposure the other one did not.

I will be printing the cyanotype over the top tommorow once they are dry and completly flat.I just hope the paper has not shrunk as my cyanotype registation negative will be out!

Below is a how i want the end print to look like (its a scan of the platinum and i added a blue filter in PS to see) Will post the results tommorow if i can get the cyanotype negative to register.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Alternative Photographic Processes Event (New York)

I stumbled across this event that is taking place from September 29 to November 4, 2007 in New York. There are both traditional and hybrid artists being represented at the event.

Unfortunately I cant make it but there was some interesting and inspirational work in the catolgue which you can download from the site. Some of the wet collodion portraits but Michael Mazzeo looked pretty special(Shown Below).

The web address is Alternative Photographic Processes Event

Godess 3 (Mazzeo, Michael)

Sunday, 23 September 2007

Another 'Wet Plate Collodion' Video

I have been recently looking at 'Wet Plate Collodion' and came across another video on the process. I really love the way these glass plates look when finished and would like to try this process at some stage. Finding the chemicals for this process looks quite challenging but i think it should be possible here in the U.K. What does concern me is the safety aspects of the process. I believe Collodion is very flammable and Amonia is also used in the process. Once i find out more information about costs and the like i will post it. I know Kerik from is doing a workshop next year in Scotland on 'Wet Plate' it would be good if he could come down south for another workshop.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Cambridge Meet Up

A couple of weeks ago a few of us from the Analogue Photographers User Group ( met up at my house for the day. I have only just got around to writing about the day which I thought was not only good fun but it was very interesting to see different types of alternative photographic prints. All the work was to a very high standard.

A few examples of the work are included below

Platinum Prints By Ian Leake (

The subtlety of these platinum prints was very special indeed and something I have only experienced once before whilst looking at a portfolio of Sally Mann’s platinum work. They really have to be seen in person without glass in front of them to fully appreciate their beauty.

Kalitype by Phill dresser

A good time was had by all and I look forward to future meet ups!

Monday, 10 September 2007

Interesting videos on Kenro Izu’s Platinum work

Having been a fan of Kenro Izu’s work for a long time its great to finally find some videos about his work and the way he processes his prints. I stumbled across these videos whilst looking for information on printing Cyanotype over platinum which he has done in the past and are stunning, a process i would like to try in the next couple of weeks. The above image shows an example of one such print of Izu's.

There are two videos at :

Direct links are :

One brief one on his work :

And one on the way he processes his prints. : (love the way he dumps his developer on the print )

Although these small videos they are a nice insight into this master photographer and printers work.

(You need QuickTime or Realplayer installed to watch.)

There is a longer text file of the interview at :

Thursday, 6 September 2007

After the slight problems with mottling on the polymer photogravure plates I decided to redirect my time to calbirating for Platinum and Palladium over the last 3 days. I Intend to pick up the gravure process again in the coming weeks but I am waiting for a shippment of 'Kreene' which might solve the contact problems we are having with the vaccum frame and the plate.
The print above is an image i took last week of this rather unusual sunflower i found. Printed Using a 1:1 mix of Platinum and Palladium. More to follow.

Tuesday, 21 August 2007

New Print

Spent 4 hours printing this new photopolymer gravure today. We seem to be having problems with mottling on our plates at the press.It was not so bad today but one can still see that there is a problem. This was a photo i took last year in Paris.