The Photograph Explained: Time – Albumen Photograph by Ellie Young
Welcome to the first in a series of articles, where we are asking photographers to talk about one of their recent photographs to shed light on why they chose that particular camera size, that particular lens and film and why is the print is made in the way it is.
Firstly, Ellie Young from Gold Street Studios…
I use an 11 x 14 camera so I can create contact photographs in alternative processes in either 8 x 10 or 11 x 14. In particular salt and albumen – the combination of both the glass plate negative and these printing methods create a unique feel to the final image – combined with the fine grain there is a clarity and depth greater than I find in film.
The lens used to take this image is Ross Xpres F4 wide angle – the optical configuration provides low spherical aberration and astigmatism, important for the photomacrography work I enjoy.
I used a dry glass plate negative. I coat the glass with Foma Liquid emulsion. This has an ISO of about 3 and beautiful fine grain. I teach and make wet plate collodion negative but they do not provide me the density required for salt and albumen photographic printing. The exposures are quite long which makes it unsuitable for wet plate photography.
This Albumen photograph gives me a timeless warmth and wonderful tonal range only surpassed by salt printing. It provides a gloss by double coating the albumen, providing the clock face with more luminosity and depth.
It is a contact photograph – meaning the image is the same size as the final photograph. In this case 8 x 10 inches.
The glass plate negative was developed in PMK, a pyro developer – I do this by inspection under red light – the Foma Liquid emulsion is created for darkroom positive paper printing but I find it perfect for my needs in creating negatives.
The albumen photographs are made by hand coating 100% cotton Bergger COT320 paper with an albumen solution then left to dry. A solution of silver nitrate is applied to this surface and placed in a dark area to dry. The glass plate is placed in contact with the now light sensitive paper and exposed to a UV light source. This changes the silver salt to the image making metallic silver. The photograph is then processed.
This photograph is from a series on glass plate using the beautiful 11 x 14 wooden Centennial Camera.
I love working with these processes and cameras, there is a sense of oneself. You make the plate, coat the paper and make all the decisions of how you deal with the raw materials to create the final photograph.
Ellie Young co-owns Gold Street Studios & Workshop where she teaches many alternate and historic processes including the albumen and dry plate processes.
Gold Street Studios & Workshop also stock chemicals and equipment for alternative photography.