Platinum/Palladium prints are one of the most beautiful forms of photographic reproduction – but creating them in the darkroom is a highly complex and technical discipline. As David says himself in the 23 page technical guide that he has produced about the process: “Remember: what works for me may not work for you. Where you live, the time of year, humidity, the weather and what you ate for dinner will all affect your working methods and results. I kid you not.”
We wanted to give you an overview of the process, so that you can better understand what goes in to creating the beautiful end product. So here’s the science part. This is a contact printing process – in other words, the negative and paper onto which it is exposed are held in contact with each other. This requires the negative to be the same size as the final print, and so it is necessary to first make a negative in the correct size. David makes these enlarged negatives by hand in the wet darkroom, rather than digitally. He does this by making an inter-positive of the original negative, and from this positive image, the correct size negative is made.
David works only with palladium as he finds it gives him the most warmth: adding platinum makes the image too ‘cold’ for his taste. The palladium emulsion is coated onto the chosen paper, using a brush which gives rise to the distinctive brushstrokes that appear on the finished print. The paper is dried, and then David uses a vacuum press to hold the negative and paper in contact. A light source rich in UV radiation is used, and after exposure, the print is ready for the for the developer solution, clearing bath, final wash, drying, pressing and retouching. This is a lengthy labour intensive process, and at each stage there are multiple opportunities for errors, both of a human and non human kind.
As David says himself “The platinum/palladium process can at times seem more like magic than science.”