“The first time I was introduced to the platinum print was in 1981 and at that moment I became enchanted by this historical process, one of the most beautiful and archival of all photographic techniques. A professional fine art photographer living on the edge of Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, I have worked primarily in platinum for over twenty years. The rich tones and antique quality of the platinum process continue to complement my photography and reinforce the timeless dimension that already exists in each image, whether it be landscape, self-portrait, portrait, still life or nude.” E. Siegfried
About The Platinum Process
(Based on information supplied by the John Stevenson Gallery in New York City, formerly the Platinum Gallery.)
Platinum, the most permanent and stable of any photographic medium on paper, yields exquisite images of three-dimensional, ethereal luminosity. Because platinum is one of the most stable elements, a platinum print is the most archival of any image made on paper and will be as permanent as the paper on which it is printed.
At the turn of the century and into the 1900s, the platinum print was the dominant medium for serious photographers. However, with the advent of World War I, platinum became more and more scarce, as Russia had most of the world's supply. After the war, platinum became more expensive than gold and platinum-coated photographic paper ceased to be manufactured. Consequently, photographers working in platinum were forced to prepare their paper by hand. With its added time and expense, the platinum print justifiably became the "private reserve" of the masters.
Today, only one in twenty fine art photographers works in platinum, owing to its expense and to the additional skills and refined techniques required of those who use it.
Platinum prints are made from full-sized photographic negatives, contact printed on hand-coated paper. The choice of high-quality, flawless paper is of primary importance, because any impurities in the paper can cause unpredictable results in the print. A complex solution of platinum (and/or palladium) and iron salts is mixed and measured in small amounts, then brushed onto a sheet of paper and dried. A negative is placed in direct contact with the paper and held in place in a contact print frame, then exposed to ultraviolet light supplied either by an exposure box or the sun. Exposure time will vary from minutes to hours depending upon many variables, such as the density of the negative and the strength of the light source. Developer is poured over the exposed paper, and the image appears instantaneously. Finally, a series of mild acid baths removes any remaining traces of iron and other extraneous material left over from the coating solution. The final print is formed of sub-microscopic crystals of pure platinum metals embedded in the paper fiber and has the most expanded tonal range of any image captured on paper.