Artists and collectors value platinum prints because of their beauty, permanence, and rarity.
Beauty: In skilled hands, platinum and its close sister palladium make exquisite photographs. The image you see is made from tiny particles of pure platinum and/or palladium embedded within the paper fibres. I use handmade, lightly textured paper which complements platinum’s graceful silver-grey tones, and brings out the almost three dimensional look that is the trademark of a platinum print.
Permanence: Platinum is one of the most stable metals known to science. A well made platinum print will last as long as the paper it is made on. That is far longer than any silver gelatin or inkjet print is likely to last. Its only rivals for permanence are carbon prints and photogravures. If well cared for, a platinum print could last a thousand years.
Rarity: Today there are only a handful of dedicated platinum printers in the world. I am one of them. And I am one of the even smaller number of people who continue to use platinum rather than its cheaper and easier sister, palladium. The difficulty of the process plus the high cost of materials mean it is highly unlikely that there will ever be large numbers of platinum prints on the market. And because platinum prints are made entirely by hand, each one is unique.
A Short History of Platinum Printing
|1842||Sir John Herschel discovers iron-based printing (the Cyanotype, or Blue Print, process).|
|1879||William Willis Jr. patents the platinum printing process which builds upon Herschel’s invention.|
|1880s to 1910s||Platinum prints rule supreme as the medium of choice for fine art photography.|
|1914 to 1918||Platinum becomes a strategically important war material because of its use in manufacturing TNT. Its use in photography rapidly declines.|
|1890s to 1920s||Silver gelatin printing gradually supplants platinum printing because it is so much cheaper and easier. By 1920 almost no-one is making platinum prints.|
|1970s and 1980s||A small number of photographers, most notably Irving Penn, rediscover platinum printing as a creative medium.|
|1990s and 2000s||The platinum printing renaissance begins as more artist photographers commit themselves to this fabulous medium. However the dependency upon large film negatives means it is still a minority pursuit.|
|2010s||Advanced inkjet printers make it easy to create high quality digital negatives for platinum printing. Ironically this new technology, which has largely killed off silver gelatin printing, has also made platinum printing accessible to many more people. While digital negatives don’t play a big part in my own creative process, I am thrilled at the opportunities these bring to platinum printing and other historic printing processes.|