Click on the photographer’s names to the left to view their exhibition images
Exhibition held at Plymouth Art Centre, supported by Plymouth Arts and The Arts Council
Exhibition Catalogue Introduction
A platinum print is the ultimate expression of bespoke craft printing. In the hands of a master printer the use of this process can provide a unique potential register of tones and effects. Platinum printing is acknowledged among photographers as a means of extracting unexpected nuances from a negative, of creating a work on paper that has a quality quite different from that of a typical print on standard gelatin silver paper. It is in search of the most finely tuned interpretation of their vision that a number of contemporary photographers have turned to specialist Platinum printers Paul and Max Caffell and Dominic Burd at 31 Studio. These include, among others, Bailey, Sebastião Salgado, and contemporary artists such as Simon Starling (TURNER PRIZE winner 2005).
Platinum was first proposed as a basis for photographic printing as early as 1859 by C.J. Burnett before a meeting of the British Association London. William Willis then patented a viable Platinum process in 1873. But it was in the 1890s that Platinum printing came into its own. The Platinum print is unlike a black and white photgraph. It goes further so as to carry one’s artistic sensibilities into light, tone and texture. There are similarities of tonal quality equal to those one would find on a great charcoal drawing and the visual and tactile qualities of a fine etching. It is for this reason that the archival practice of Platinum printing has performed a kind of alchemy with the finished print, creaing an image of timeless quality. This process has been revived by 31 Studio, developing the intricate technique to incorporate contemporary image-makers.
The chemicals are mixed in the darkroom and applied to the paper in sucessive coatings with a goat-hair brush. This involves the greatest of care and control to achieve consistency, as the light-sensitive salts are evenly impregnated into the fibres of paper, which is then carefully dried. Printing is made by contact from a negative enlarged to the required size. The printer must gauge precisely the negative densities, exposure times and development temperatures to achieve the particular scale of tones and tint that he has in mind.
The end product has very particular and seductive qualities. These are in part ascribable to the fact that the chemicals and in turn the image, are permeated into the thickness of the paper, rather than sitting in a flat emulsion on the surface. The Platinum allows for an exceptional intensity, so that the blacks, infused through the paper, seem to have an infinte depth. The Platinum further allows for the most soft and subtle graduation of mid-tones. The printer enjoys the possibilities that a conductor might enjoy with a full orchestra, rather than say, a quartet, at the command of his baton.
The studio has worked with historic archive negatives to make superlative prints of important images from the medium’s history available to a wider international audience. These projects include printings of images by such masters as Frederick Evans, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Jacques Henri Lartugue, Lee Miller and Bill Brandt.