Simulating a Platinum Print
It's often stated that a kallitype toned in platinum looks identical to a platinum print, being virtually indistinguishable from one. This sounds intriguing and makes me want to take a closer look at the kallitype process, but it also raises a couple of questions:
1. Does this apply to other types of colloidal silver images, like salt prints or vandykes? I think the toner should work the same in all cases, shouldn't it? Colloidal silver is colloidal silver, no matter how it was obtained, isn't it? Will a vandyke print toned in platinum look like a platinum print?
2. What exactly does it mean to "look like a platinum print"? I've seen reproductions of platinum prints in many colors, ranging from orange-brown to dark brown, to neutral black, to blue black. What's the native color of a platinum print? In fact, is there such a thing as a native color of a platinum print? What color should a kallitype be in order to "look like a platinum print"?
I've read that there was a bit of a hoo-haa in times gone by about photographers who fraudulently presented Kallitypes as Platinum prints. The issue was that people couldn't tell them apart by looking at them. I haven't compared a really good Kallitype with really good platinum print so don't know whether this is true, but as you say, it's thought provoking.
Regarding the 'native colour' of a platinum print, it entirely depends on whether it is a platinum, platinum/palladium or palladium print. Platinum prints are typically cold black, palladium prints are typically warm brown, and mixtures are anywhere in between. I suspect that there are very few pure platinum prints made nowadays which is why most things called 'platinum prints' are browner than black.
As a last thought, it's unwise to base your judgement of tone on online reproductions because these are quite difficult to match to original prints.
I see. The loose use of the "platinum print" description for any print containing a bit of platinum might account for the differences. This print of Edward Weston's, for instance, is described as a "platinum print". But, given its color, I guess it isn't 100% platinum, is it?
So, I take it that a platinum toner will make a kallitype cold black. Right?
Will it do the same with a vandyke or salt print?
Vintage prints are a little bit more complicated than contemporary ones. Palladium was introduced a good few years after platinum (if I remember correctly it was well into the period when platinum printing was in decline). That said, I’m sure that palladium was in use when this print was made.
However, commercial platinum papers had all sorts of additives in them (e.g. mercury for extra warmth). And Willis’ Platinotype Company manufactured a specific ‘warm tone’ platinum paper – presumably US suppliers did this too.
Unfortunately for us today, Willis seems to have treated his recipes as trade secrets and, as far as I can tell, knowledge of them has now been lost. His patent specifications give some pointers as to where he was working, but they are cunningly vague in many areas so you would need to do a lot of testing to re-research this area.
Additionally, vintage printers used a wider range of developers than we do now, and often at far higher temperatures. Developer temperature effects print warmth.
I have made several comparison prints utilizing Pd and kallitypes toned with Pd. I utilized the same developer for both processes in order to make them as alike as possible except for the metals involved. They were toned to completion and I can not tell them apart visually. I have not had them chemically analyzed.
The machine coated papers did have a variety of additives in them. At one time the Platinotype company produced papers with 15 different colors and textures.
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I've found the answer to my first question in an older thread, here.
Sandy Kind says that unlike platinum toned kallitypes, which look identical to true platinum prints, platinum toned vandykes still retain a somewhat brown look.
How about platinum toning gelatin silver prints? I imagine it would be very expensive, because it would require much higher concentrations, but would it work?
Would it make a gelatin silver print look and behave like a true platinum print? The advantage would be that you would get the permanency and look of a platinum print, while still retaining the ability to enlarge and to use "normal" contrast negatives.
If the elemental platinum replaces the base metal salt in the print, is it really just another way to arrive at the same destination.
I realize it's more complicated from a chemical perspective than this gross over simplification, but but obviously if you're platinum toning, you're introducing platinum as the image forming molecules.