Fragmented Light

THE PLATINOTYPE PROCESS
Essay by Maro Vandorou

As a visual artist I use 19th century photographic processes (Van Dyke, salt prints, platinum, albumen prints) to define and express my voice and vision. At the same time, I have a true passion for interdisciplinary work and for combining the beauty and permanence of historic photographic processes with the power and precision of digital imaging.

For the body of work Fragmented Light, after lengthy experimentation to choose an appropriate photographic process and identify the right kind of paper that is compatible with the process and aesthetic intent, I settled on Platinotype and on the rare, translucent, handmade Japanese paper, Gampi. Platinum printing is considered a most elegant process with a tremendous expressive power and archival value. When done correctly, platinum printing, yields one-of-a kind prints of unusual monochromatic beauty, a luxurious range of tones, and a unique visual presence. While in traditional black and white fine-art photographs the image appears to “float” on the surface of the paper, with these alternative processes the image is fused with the fibers of the paper, it becomes an integral part of it.

This results in a different visual aesthetic, further enhanced by the lusciousness, and the tactile sensuality of traditional and rare fine art papers. The methodology I follow reflects an eclectic mix of photographic techniques spanning three centuries of photo-graphy. The photographs are taken with a medium format camera using black and white film. Image processing and the creation of enlarged negatives rely on the use of digital technologies. I scan the film-based negatives, correct defects, adjust tonality, and finally, create and print the negative from digital files. Platinum printing is labor intensive, chemically complicated, and time consuming. To render the paper photosensitive, I coat it with a precise combination of noble metals (platinum and palladium) in solution. This solution is applied to the paper using a glass rod and a Japanese hake brush. A negative the size of the final print is placed over the photosensitized paper, within a specially constructed contact printing frame. The frame with the paper and the negative are then exposed to ultraviolet light. When the image appears, specific steps are followed to complete the process developing, clearing, and rinsing. The print dries and the sensitive Japanese paper maintains its internal glow and characteristic texture.