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The Platinotype Process – A Brief History

The photographs in the Portraits, Nudes, Nature Mort, King of Sorrows and Magenta Night portfolios are Platinotypes. From the year of its commercial introduction in 1873, through the second decade of the 20th century, the Platinotype process was used by the premier photographers of the era. It was highly favored, not only for its archival permanence, but also because of the dynamic tonal range (from rich velvety blacks, through a seemingly endless range of mid-tones, to soft and delicate whites) produced in the platinum print.

 

Many of the great photographs made by members of the Photo Secession like Alfred Stieglitz, Fredrick Evans, Edward Steichen, Gertrude Kasebier, Anne Brigman, F. Holland Day and Alvin Langdon Coburn were printed on platinum paper.

 

For various reasons, the Platinotype process waned in general popularity after 1930. However, a group of dedicated photographers represented by such individuals as Laura Gilpin, Imogene Cunningham, and Paul Outerbridge continued making platinum prints on hand coated paper right up until the 1960’s. The work of these and other photographers allowed a new generation to experience the beauty and power of the platinum print, encouraging a renaissance in this beautiful photographic process.

 

My introduction to this unique photographic process began during my MFA studies in photography at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and the George Eastman House in 1978.