The Platinum / Palladium Print


The Platinum/ Palladium printing process, first patented in 1873 by William Willis, creates images that are made from some of the rarest and most precious metals known to man; platinum, palladium or a mixture of both. Also known as Platinotypes/ Palladiotypes, they use precious inert metals, like gold, that do not oxidize over time and produce images that are truly archival. When finished they have the potential to last for over 1,000 years, provided that the paper holds the image together over such long time scales. Herald as the finest of the traditional photographic printing techniques it creates a very different aesthetic. Being a matte like image, which is impregnated into the paper instead of being held in a medium on the surface such as the silver gelatin process. The Platinotype is also famed for its larger range of tonality. For an example, silver gelatin has 12 steps where platinum/palladium has 24 steps. Holding a platinum/palladium print has been likened to having a jewel in your hands.  

Each print is incredibly labor intensive to produce and is a completely unique art object upon itself. Since each print has to be coated by hand, and this process relies on a myriad of variables that can affect the chemistry creating a different end result. Printing test images need to be made due to the high cost materials involved. It is also critical to make sure the exposure is done correctly, this process relies on the use of UV light to precipitate the platinum/palladium metal out of the coated solution on the paper and the "printout" is also dependent on the relative humidity of the paper.

Here you can see the hand coated boarder revealing the nature of the process and, each print will have a slightly different boarder acting as a unique finger print to your image. Also sometimes you may see brushstrokes on the image or other subtle nuances, which add to it's handmade aesthetic.

This process is what you call a contact print. The size of the negative has to be the same size as the image you want to make, hence most platinum/palladium prints are normally smaller in size and is also why larger prints become drastically more expensive.

Overall the creation of a Platinotype/ Palladiotype is painstaking and difficult; however, it gives you a completely unique hand crafted object. The magic of viewing the image coming to life through the chemistry is rewarding in itself. However, when living with these pieces and seeing their luminous subtle tonality is a pleasure to the eyes. Seeing these images in person is the only way to really appreciate what this process achieves.