I was able to get to the V&A museum last week, I was intending on taking some density readings from one particular platinum print by Irving Penn entitled 'Harlequin Dress.' Unfortunately the conservators would not let the meter touch the print. I thought this might happen so plan B was to visually compare the multilayer test print that I had created which I have dmax readings for, and the Penn print. The good thing about this particular Penn print is that it has absolute black values to compare against.
The four of us (the assistant curator of photography at the V&A, a conservator, my friend and me) visually compared the black values of the Penn print and the multilayer test print. To our eyes the dmax of the Penn print was at the lower left hand corner of the harlequin dress. We all agreed that the dmax of the Penn print corresponded well to the values that were achieved with the third layer of the multilayer test print, which dmax values are in excess of 1.7( see previous post regarding test results). The curator thought the Penn print might actually have a slightly higher dmax value. (The images below are really to illustrative how we were comparing, obviously the human eye is going to be significantly better at judging density than a photo can reproduce)
What can we conclude from this, well I believe what we have established based on visual evidence is that Penn was achieving a dmax for this particular print that no single hit could obtain, moreover it was likely to have been as a result of multi-layering of platinum/palladium salts. I would have liked to have taken actual readings as this would have been more conclusive however this was not possible. There next few tests I want to do are to establish exactly what is going on when you multilayer platinum/palladium salts, print a detailed step wedge with multi-layering and experiment with some of the Papers Penn used.