Irving Penn Notebooks 'Pigment and Porcelain' notes

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by Davec101, Sep 4, 2012.

  1. Davec101

    Davec101 Member

    Messages:
    896
    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2005
    Location:
    Cambridge, U
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Whilst going through Penn's notebooks on platinum printing that can be found online at the Ryerson & Burnham Archives.

    I came acorss his notes on 'Pigment and Porcelain' http://digital-libraries.saic.edu/cdm/ref/collection/mqc/id/15080

    It says 'This notebook contains tests and details concerning Irving Penn's experiments in printing photographs on porcelainized plates using a pigment process'

    Have yet to make head nor tail of it yet but will post more when i can. My initial thoughts are that he was making a colour image with platinum and palladium and colour pigments.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 4, 2012
  2. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,765
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2003
    Location:
    Jacksonville
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Dave, slightly off topic but do you understand his notes on page 83 titled "Lab Worksheet"? I presume its multiple exposures per print with platinum formulaes - ratio method? Would also guess he pre-soaked his paper so could properly register each exposure.
     
  3. Davec101

    Davec101 Member

    Messages:
    896
    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2005
    Location:
    Cambridge, U
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Van, do you have a direct link to page 83, there are so many notes that its taking a while to go through. He was using multiple exposures with multiple negatives, more specfically :

    'The separation of the enlarged negative image into the basic negative + a highlight mask + 1 or 2 overprintings for the shadows gives enormous scope to the printing possibilities. The image is in effect reassembled in an altered relationship of the components.'

    I dont believe he was pre-soaking according to his notes, as to properly register each exposure he bonded the printing paper to aluminum, you should see a mention of 'Surelyn' in some of the notes which was the bond he used created by Dupont.
     
  4. Loris Medici

    Loris Medici Member

    Messages:
    653
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2005
    Location:
    Istanbul, Tu
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Dave, haven't visited the page you provided yet, BUT, as a first impression, "...printing photographs on porcelainized plates using a pigment process..." sounds very much something like enamel photography to me...

    Regards,
    Loris.
     
  5. Davec101

    Davec101 Member

    Messages:
    896
    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2005
    Location:
    Cambridge, U
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Thanks for the link Loris, did they use platinum and palladium for that technique? Penn seemed quite interested in it there is almost 80 pages of notes.

    P.S Still have not got around to trying that paper you kindly sent me!! Sorry about that. Is it still working well for you?
     
  6. Loris Medici

    Loris Medici Member

    Messages:
    653
    Joined:
    Sep 13, 2005
    Location:
    Istanbul, Tu
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Dear David,

    I don't think they were using any noble metals for enamel photography...

    Yes, the paper always worked well for me. I like its brightness and the deep blacks it gives to me...

    Regards,
    Loris.
     
  7. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

    Messages:
    5,424
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2004
    Location:
    Toronto-Onta
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    Dave Loris and others

    Has any one here have success with carbon over palladium?

    As well Dave thank you for the link to the notes, I have not had any time of late and I will get to them.
    Do you think Mr Penn had any success with carbon over platinum?

    I visited Sandy K last month after an intense PS course in Atlanta, I took down some platinum on silver gelatin that Craig K from Manitoba supplied me.
    We were able to lay down a second hit of carbon quite successfully and as well we did some gelatin coating on rag paper.

    My friend John Bentley (toronto based) who makes full colour carbons is telling me that gelatin and platinum palladium do not work well together but our test and that
    of Craig's palladium over fixed out silver gelatin photo paper seem to prove him wrong.. any thoughts on overcoating pt pd with gelatin for carbon transfer??

    I am at an interesting stage with all my testing, we have successfully made silver negatives to size required, and have separated into many different hits or layers if you will.
    We have mounted rag paper to aluminum and have made registered prints.
    At Sandy's we made colour tissue with no issues .
    We also have made very nice contact prints to 20 x24 size on Ilford Warmtone Paper, that have a wonderful quality.

    I have scanned a series of images and have a bundle of multiple negs to print , its time to pull it all together and make a grouping of portfolio prints.
    I am convinced that carbon over palladium is the way to go , but John's nagging warning is in the back of my mind and I am wondering
    about the success rate of applying gelatin over pt pd.
    At this point I am not using inkjet negs , but real silver negs, I feel I can get better detail resolution, as well better blocking power, making the negatives are more intuitive for me as I am use to looking at negatives ,rather than plotting curves to make my images and this method seems to work well for me.

    Sandy has led me down an interesting path when making multiple hits, and I will have to try his way of a single transfer and peel vs the multiple wettings that I planned to put the base image on aluminum through.


    Bob
     
  8. Early Riser

    Early Riser Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,630
    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2005
    Location:
    USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format

    His platinum prints were mounted on aluminum sheets and the aluminum was pin registered. He told me that he did multiple exposures and that each print took him as much as 20 hours to make.
     
  9. Patrick Robert James

    Patrick Robert James Subscriber

    Messages:
    626
    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2012
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    I seem to recall reading in some obscure place that Penn used a metal other than platinum (or palladium) in his platinum prints as a layer if I remember correctly. I am not a platinum printer so the info didn't stick but I thought I would throw it out there for you guys.
     
  10. Davec101

    Davec101 Member

    Messages:
    896
    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2005
    Location:
    Cambridge, U
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Iridium was the other nobel metal he used.
     
  11. Davec101

    Davec101 Member

    Messages:
    896
    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2005
    Location:
    Cambridge, U
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Hi Bob, good to hear your testing is going well, carbon over palladium sounds interesting. Good luck with that and look forward to seeing the results.

    Speaking to others gelatin seems to be a problem for prints with platinum in however palladium works well.

    You might be interested in these transcripts of the notes Penn wrote on Platinum printing that are available from the Archives of the Art Institute of Chicago. Some of them are shown below.


    'PH of paper greatest importance. Gray stain when even acid paper used without addition of HCL when coating. Bad stain when neutral or alkaline paper (Fabriano, unsized) used. Addition of 1.5 drops per cc of metallic solution required to reduce stain to acceptable level. (Some formulas use oxalic acid in fairly large amount in coating solution. I must explore this more fully.)

    Kurt Steirs research (see his notes) indicates paper lasting quality almost entirely dependent on PH of paper. An acid condition is destructive. In our work this acidity is apparently cumulative. An acid paper (W.T.) + acidic result of alum size + hydrochloric acid of process leaves a PH that must be altered by additional chemical baths. (see K.S. notes).

    Since we find that W.T. paper is not sufficiently neutral to face our finished prints, we have found from Andrews-Nelson-Whitehead a paper (tissue) used by the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress. Our tests indicate a PH of ________. Mrs. Vera Freeman A-N-W paper Co.

    There is a serious difference in the behavior of platinum and palladium as a coating medium. Literature to the contrary is nonsense.

    Palladium is softer and tends to have softer edges to the grain. It continues to bleach for hours in HCL. The result is an image with something of the quality of a stain. It tends to the brownish and faded look of an old silver-print. Any unevenness is in the original sizing of the paper is multiplied many times in the bleaching process. Our tests indicate that the dry image is absolutely fast to light.) It is difficult to decide on an exposure since one might attempt to prevision the final result of hours later.

    Platinum is harder and clearer than palladium. The grain is more apparent than even in the negative from which the print is made. (There is a limit apparently to the softness one can get on platinum.) However the image as it appears in the developer is exactly what will be there even hours of HCL later! This is a joy. (The image of platinum is much slower coming up than palladium. Id guess 3 mins as against 30 seconds to more or less completion of development). Using platinum as the underprinting gives one the chance to abandon the plate early in the game if it seems that the highlights are too dark or too light, since the image is unalterable by further time or manipulation.

    Use of iridium with palladium. Is this basically a toning of the palladium image? Great cost is a discouraging factor in its use.

    Because of the time consumed in constant experimentation it is necessary to ration oneself and keep the objective of making fine prints foremost. This leaves many technical questions unanswered.

    Our whole use of the platinum process for print-making was conditioned by the existence of modern materials, (estar base films, aluminum sheets, surelyn) which enrich the possibilities of hand-coated platinum (palladium, iridium).

    The separation of the enlarged negative image into the basic negative + a highlight mask + 1 or 2 overprintings for the shadows gives enormous scope to the printing possibilities. The image is in effect reassembled in an altered relationship of the components.

    The Xenon light makes possible a consistent exposure of a consistent color temperature night and day. We have used it always with a paper test strip. The light is actually on a trolley which allows alteration of distance marked on a tape-measure on the floor.

    The further the light source is from the printing frame, the nearer it approaches a point source but the time increases in geometric proportion. From a practice time point of view we tend to use 2 1/2 ft for the 4000 Xenon and 36 for the 8000 Xenon. A large fan blows on the printing frame glass during the entire exposure and an exhaust fan removes the heat that builds up rapidly in the exposing room.

    There is a die supplied by Condit who made our strips. A punch is used to make the screw holes that eventually hold the registration strip. Indentations were ground into the printing frame glass to accommodate the raised studs of the registration strip and insure absolute flat contact of the elements enclosed in the frame during exposure.'
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2012