From the LOC:
I am exploring adding a division to Bostick & Sullivan called Editions Historica.
Here is the game plan so far:
- Re-strike great images of the past in historic processes.
- Carbon is the starting point. Beautiful and very permanent.
- Image size for the most part in the 16 x 20 to 20 x 24 inch range. Sizes large enough for hanging.
- Focus on the period 1860 to 1920.
- Along with the printed image provide some historical information about the image.
- The printer will sign an Impress signature on the outside margin
- A ribbon strip along the side of the image will provide image detail, print date etc.
- Although it is unlikely anyone would confuse these images with vintage ones I plan to print a very lightly printed notation on the reverse that is not visible on the front.
- I will attempt to find lesser known images that also have a story behind them.
- Since they are laboriously handmade, they will not be “limited” as the images are in the public domain. Enough, with this “limited edition” silliness in photography.
- I see a market that is way below what many of these images would go for in their original vintage prints. But they are also not at the poster or inkjet re-strike price range — (I’ve seen outrageous pricing on inkjet copies.)
- I’ve also seen so called “limited editions” of inkjet re-strikes from public domain available scans from the Library of Congress such as the Walker Evans image at Izu’s auction of a few years back. I have written about this print before.
- There is an added attraction due to the historic process itself. Most people have no idea of what a platinum or carbon print is, but at a certain level there is a growing number of sophisticated collectors and a growing population of alt-process practitioners whom many are collectors themselves.
Photograph shows a young girl with her hands clasped in front, staring intently forward. Photograph was an illustration for James Whitcomb Riley’s poem “Little Orphan Annie” printed in Brownell’s 1901 book ”Dream Children.” Brownell apparently coordinated with Riley.
Scan from a platinum print.
Now this image was a surprise to me. 1st off I always thought Little Orphan Annie” was a comic strip and not aware that it was from a poem by James Whitcomb Riley. LIkely a lot of young ones today may only associate her with the Broadway musical.
For me, knowing this little bit of information adds a lot to my appreciation of the image. Some may say the image itself is everything, but for me, I can see someone asking about the image hanging on my wall and if all I could say, was that it is little girl, that’s not terribly exciting, but to add the Little Orphan Annie information does add a lot of interest in the image. Her look and the ragged dress now becomes highlighted.
I would like some opinions on this idea and project. What’s your take?
Does this sound like a viable project?
What is your estimate of a retail price for a 16×20 carbon of this or other historic image?
Comments on any of the bulleted topics above.
And any other comments.
Here are a couple of other images I am contemplating for the project.
1st one down is John Grabill – “Hostile Indian camp” Apparently not too hostile to climb a nearby rise and place a large view camera on a tripod up in full sight.
And Joe Black Fox in a 16×20 print ready for shipping to the 2012 PhotoReview Auction. The auction’s estimate is $500 – $1000, estimate by Stephen Perloff, editor.
The growth we are seeing in the alt process world is phenomenal. We are growing. What is interesting is that the galleries specializing in contemporary photography are suffering. At least at the low end price range that is less than $5,000.00 per. As a company we are pretty well connected and this comes over the chatter pretty well. The economy certainly has something to do with this downturn but over the 30+ years we have been in business fine art photo has been fairly immune to these shifts, we continue to grow but only slower in the downturns. Here we are seeing a downturn when we would normally be seeing an upturn. Maddy and I made a restrike of Kasebier’s “Joe Black Fox” in 16×20 albumen, machine coated at our atelier here. It was donated to Stephen Perloff’s Photo Review Auction. Last year a similar one by Kasebier that we donated, Iron White Man, went for $400.00 in what was said to be “spirited” bidding in a fairly down market auction. Stephen Perloff, who also publishes the Photo Collector Newsletter that tracks auction prices, assigned a $500.00 to $1,000.00 price tag for the new one at this year’s auction. I asked him to set the price as who better to know than him? I believe he is setting a fir market value on the print
Where this is all leading is open to speculation. I think most here can fill in the blanks as far as my thoughts on this go. What is does portend may be of some interest to those teaching fine art photography. As for teaching design and commercial art, I don’t see any message here.
As for an opinion on the issue of prices and sales of contemporary photographic art I have a few observations.
In a fine art photography gallery the bottom line price of a photograph is not determined by its intrinsic value, but by how much it needs to be sold for. Contemporary galleries, and in particular upscale ones, the overhead can be very high. It can, of course vary a lot, but $25,000 a month is not unusual and may be on the low side. Do the math. How many prints does one have to sell to just break even. Thus the entry level price is quite high. But then, here, we are not talking Richard Prince or Burtynsky. To a large degree, print prices are determined by what they need to sold for, not what the intrinsic value is. The ultimate determination of print prices is auction prices. However, the problem here is that low end contemporary photography, under $5000.00, rarely shows up at auction.
Among big time collectors there seems to be a resistance to digital images. This is not across the board and universal, Burtynsky and others at the high end have been able to crack that market. There, is however I believe a level of distrust from buyers who spend $2,000.00 for a digital print from an emerging photographer and feel that that image may in fact get loose on the internet or be reproduced. I have written before about the serious problems of so called “limited” editions from photographers such as multiples from motor drives, sizes etc. This may not be as much of a problem from established or dead photographers for images coming from trusts like the Cunningham Trust, but it easily is from a new emerging photographer.
Now one must understand that our B+S network and circle of photographers are prejudiced in favor of the handmade print. I hear often comments about the high price of a print and then “and it’s only digital.” And I think this prejudice extends beyond the alt process practitioners.
Info on the 2011 is at that site but there is a 2012 coming up in October I believe. I am donating a public domain Image by Gertrude Kasebier in 16×20 albumen. The scans were provided by the LOC. Check the site above for bidding info or inquiries. The profits go to the Photo Review so it is a good cause.
Here it is matted and sitting on the floor propped on a chair.
Chief Joe Black Fox
Ca. 1900; Gertrude Kasebier
Noted photographer Gertrude Kasebier, a member of Alfred Stieglitz’s circle, made images of Native American members of Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. We should remind ourselves that this was a period not long after men died fighting each other in the West.
Ms. Kasebier’s images project fondness, respect, and a sense of humanity about her Native American subjects. Some of them were posed in the stereotypical “Warriors of the Plains” mode, common for the time, but many of her images broke the mould.
As for the ethnographic authenticity of the images, we must give Gertrude a bit of poetic license. She was a 19th century artist and not a 21st century anthropologist. The earrings Joe Black Fox is wearing are identical to those seen on a number of other Native subjects in her project. The blanket is not Indian, the scarf appears to be European silk brocade. The costumes on many of her Native subjects are clearly an artistic interpretation rather than being historically accurate.. Consider that arriving off the street in 1900 to a New York 5th avenue photographic studio in full Indian dress would have been quite an accomplishment, so I suspect many arrived in street clothes and Kasebier did her best to make them look like Indians.
The negatives are in the public domain and are available in high resolution scans from the U.S. Library of Congress. They are printed by Dick Sullivan and Madelyn Willis at the Bostick & Sullivan Studio. They images are made on glucose free B&S machine coated albumen paper. The editions are unlimited but the considerable hand labor and artisan skill needed for their production, severely limits their numbers.
We have taken the liberty of digitally “fixing” some minor condition issues in the negatives but have resisted the impulse to digitally “beautify” the images or to “correct” tonalities. Also, be reminded these prints are a handmade objects, and as such, will in some manner reflect the use of the hand. Ms. Kasebier was fond of doing hand work on her original negatives, so I am certain she would agree with this.
Bostick & Sullivan is likely the first to manufacture albumen paper since World War I. We have the advantage of now having glucose free albumen that was not available in the 19th century. Glucose in the albumen is believed now to be one of the main reasons for the darkening of 19th century albumen prints through what is called the Maillard Effect.
Photographers in the 19th century and particularly ones working in the fine arts, often varnished or over-coated their prints. This was a mixed bag depending on the type of varnish used. In some cases it protected the image from atmospheric pollution, but it was frequently a problem in itself. We are using a very light coat of modern archival polymer to add some protection to the image.
–Dick Sullivan HonFRPS
A Product of Bostick & Sullivan Research Associates
Named for the Greek goddess of wisdom.
My thanks to Madelyn Willis, Kyle Klaine and Kim (Kimberly) Clark, for their help, and as always, Howard Efner PhD for his astute chemical advice.
The Athenatype is in the family of iron system silver prints. The major historical ones in this class are: the Kallitype and the Van Dyke prints. The Kallitype uses different developers to achieve different colors and is known for its unpredictability and its tendency to bleach in the fix. The Van Dyke’s tonality is flat and shadows block up and does not take well to toning. The Athenatype addresses these issues. The Athenatype can produce images that are visually nearly identical to platinum prints, especially if gold toned. Using inexpensive, B+S Fool’s Gold toner in the One-Step fix and toneone can achieve a range of pleasing brown tones and add permanence to the image.
B+S has developed an inexpensive selenium toner, we have named “Fool’s Gold Toner,” for the Athenatype . This is a non-staining toner that used with the Athenatype process produces beautiful brown to blue black images and gives tones nearly identical to those produced by more expensive gold toners.
The Athenatype was designed to provide a good looking silver print process that is reasonably simple, uses easy to obtain materials, and is economical.
One key element of the Athenatype process is the use of fumed silica. Since its introduction in the fall of 2011, it has become very popular with high end printers of platinum and palladium as well as other processes. There is a small learning curve in developing the skill of coating silica, but the skill learned, is not limited to the Athenatype but to Pt/Pd, cyanotype and other processes as well.
- Very nice tonality. Closely resembles that of a platinum or palladium print.
- No developer needed, just plain tap water.
- A POP image and its effects.
- It’s a relatively simple process
- Not as archival as a Pd/Pt image
- Very long exposures tend towards blushing (metallic silver fogging)
We are working on this
- Coat with silica
- Brush coat with equal parts Solutions A (Guanidine Ferric Oxalate) and B (Silver Nitrate Solution)
- Wash 10 minutes
- Fix, clear and tone in One-Step Bath
- Wash 10 minutes
The Sensitizer Solutions
1. Guanidine Ferric Oxalate Solution
A modified version of *US Patent 2,265,934, American Cyanamid, 1939
It is claimed to have a long shelf life and be extremely fast.
a) Guanidine Carbonate 18.0 gm
b) Oxalic acid 12.6 gm
c) Water 75.0 ml
Do this slowly as there will be a vinegar+soda type reaction and it can overflow. Use a large sized beaker.
a) Powered ferric oxalate 12.5 gm
b) EDTA tetra-sodium 3.2 gm
c) Water 75.0 ml
Dissolve the powder. A few short 5 to 10 seconds shots in a microwave will speed up the dissolving.
Add Part (A) to Part (B) there may be few more bubbles and fizzing. You will now have 150 ml of guanidine ferric oxalate solution.
1. Silver nitrate solution
a) Silver nitrate 8.3 gm
b) Water 100.0 ml
One Step — Fix, Clear and Tone Bath
a) Sodium thiosulfate 100.0 gm
b) Sodium or potassium metabisulfite 15.0 gm
c) EDTA tetrasodium (optional) 15.0 gm
d) *B+S Fools Gold Selenium toner Part (A) 5.0 ml
e) Water 1000 ml
*Other selenium toners will likely work as well though have not been tested. You may vary the amount of toner used. This will affect the speed of toning and to some extent color. Again, like in most alt processes, experience will guide you.
Detailed Instructions for Making an Athenatype
- Coat a piece of art paper with fumed silica. See detailed Silica instructions for Fumed Silica below.
Coating silica in brief:
Place a small quantity of silica on to a sheet of paper. For an 11 x 14 inch sheet about 1 teaspoonful. Roll the silica out with a high density foam roller. It will flow out almost like water and seem to disappear.
- Mix equal Part (A) guanidine ferric oxalate solution and Part (B) silver nitrate solution
A precipitate will be formed. This expected and is not a problem.
- 3. Use a foam brush and spread the sensitizer until paper is quite matte and the solution has sunk in The shine should be gone. If your hearing is good, as it brushes in, you will hear a high pitched squeaking as the brush passes over the paper. A light very rapid brushing for at least a 2 minutes or more will produce a good un-streaked coating. The key to a good coating is lots of brushing!
- 4. Dry with a hair dryer. (Some paper will stain if left to sit and air dry.)
- 1. A damp exposure in the manner of a Ziatype has worked well. We have not extensively tested that with the new formulation.
- 5. Expose. A good print out image will appear. It will increase and develop some in the 1stwater bath but as with any POP process, some experience will be needed to judge print exposure.
- 6. 1st wash. 10 minutes. Some development will occur almost immediately.
- 7. Fix, clear and tone bath. At least 5 minutes. See Note 1.
- 8. Final wash. 10 minutes.
- 9. Dry
- Toning. We are having great results with using a sulfate free selenium toner added to the fixing bath. This is the B+S Fool’s Gold Toner that is sulfate free. Sulfates can create staining in some silver processes. Other selenium toners may work. We have found that varying the strength of the toner affects the color of the image. Five minutes in the tone and fix bath with 5 ml per liter creates a nice brown tone. If 10 ml is used, the tones go towards the purplish browns to blue black. As far as using more or less than from 5 to 10 ml’s of Selenium per liter, has have not investigated. What is interesting here is that we are getting pretty much a gold toner effect without the costly use of gold. Evidence suggests that selenium toning in this manner is for practical purposes as permanent as gold or other noble metal toning.
- As with the Ziatype, this process is basically simple. Mix equal parts A+B, coat, dry or leave damp, expose, tone and fix, and wash. It offers a very good print-out image for judging exposure which is good for classes and workshops without sufficient light banks and exposure units. For the advanced worker there are plenty of process avenues to explore that will allow the worker to develop their own unique look and feel for an image.
- A drop or two of 1% dichromate solution can be added for contrast. If you use too much you will get granular highlights. A tiny amount may be all you need.
- Small quantities of 5% gold chloride solution, or standard Pt/Pd solutions can be added to the sensitizer for tonal adjustments. This is another avenue to explore.
- For coating silica a foam brush works best. There will be some drag on the brush due to the silica at first. However, your sensitizer will spread further than you might expect. It will be a bit streaky at first but be persistent and keep brushing. Eventually the surface will start to become less wet and the coating will smooth out. You need to brush it out till it looks like suede. If you get streaks you have not brushed enough. It is sweat labor. It might take as long as 5 minutes to brush it on. Much of this depends on the paper, room conditions and whether Mars is in the House of Venus.
- BLUSHING! We are finding that extremely long exposures tend towards blushing, that is a graying of the image due to a deposition in the deep pores of the paper of metallic silver. As an example, our digital negs made correctly exposed on our Olec 5000 watt unit normally take about 150 to 200 units of exposure, these numbers roughly relate to seconds. We have a couple of negs that take 900 to 1200 units and we invariably get a blush. We are currently working on this issue.
Notes – The Byzantine part. Credit to C.J.
Fumed Silica Coating (dusting) in detail
What is needed:
Dry coating option – this is recommended for beginners and is my way of coating silica.
You will need
- A high density foam roller from Home Depot, a paint store, or similar supplier. They come in 2, 3, 4, and 6 inch sizes from various manufacturers.
- A suitable tray for the size of the roller.
- A piece of paper to print on.
Charging a new roller.
- A new roller needs to be “charged.” To do so, place a small amount of silica in the tray. For a 4 inch roller about a heaping tablespoon full.
- Charge the roller by rolling it with some pressure in the tray much as you would do if it were liquid paint.
For an 11 x 14 sheet of paper place 1 slightly rounded teaspoonful of dry fumed silica. A good paper like Arches Platine is recommended. Cot 320 is good also.
- Roll the roller over the paper covering it completely with the silica in both directions The silica goes on surprisingly very evenly. It acts more like a fluid than a powder! Fumed silica has some very weird properties so this fluid like action is not unlikely.
- The paper is ready for coating the sensitizer
Wet coating Option
Josh Partridge who printed his grandmother’s prints for the Cunningham Trust worked out this method:
- Mix it by volume, not weight. 3 parts distilled water to 1 silica. 4/1 to 1/1 works, do your own tests. 1/2 is too much, it falls off the paper after drying.
- Put the distilled water in a blender and make the speed fast enough to make a funnel of air down to the blades (or almost to the blades). Slowly pour the silica into the funnel (about 1 minute). It needs the high speed shearing action to not settle out later. I go 5 minutes, but that’s just a guess on the time. If the blender can’t make a funnel of air do the best the blender can do. I use #5 on the variable speed of the VitaMix at about 1200 ml of water.
- Put the mix in a tray.
- Put the paper in the tray, push to the bottom of tray with fingers.
- Use a foam roller for a 1 and a half minutes, rolling slowly back and forth. Just normal or light pressure. You are massaging the silica into the paper. Just a guess on the amount of time. I like a good soak, which is why I do this, I want the paper fully saturated with silica.
- Hang up to dry and then flatten.
- I have not tried Tween
If you are following the Athenatype adventure, there is a bit more information.
Maddy and I have spent the last week exploring the process in more detail. The devil in the process this time has been solarization of what we call blush. That is a grayish coloration in what should be the deeper blacks. Years ago I explored this phenomenon in Pt/Pd printing and discovered in a microscopic exam that the pt and pd were “plating out” in the paper. In other words, a metallic print, whether silver or pt/pd, gets it blacks by having the metal finely divided and it traps light in that manner. Too much of a good thing results in the metal looking more like metal, that is, it get shiny. Thus it creates a surface graying of the image.
Suddenly we started getting blush on the Athenatype prints we were making. Maybe suddenly is not quite the right word as we hadn’t done any serious Athenatype printing since last winter. The room was colder. Even when we turned on the heat, the glass table and other table tops were still a bit cool. It is in the high 80′s or low 90′s in the print room right now. Soooooo… things are different.
We tried various changes. More silica — yes some benefit but coating is a bit trickier. We tried alumina — not much difference.
We did a few other things to no avail.
Mystery solved! The 10 in x 12 in paper was dry pre-coated with 1 1/2 teaspoons of silica . The sensitizer was brushed thoroughly and was exposed dry.The trick was we added 2 mls of distilled water to 8 mls of coating solution consisting of (4 ml 12% silver nitrate and 4 ml of standard guanidine ferric oxalate.)
It was fixed and toned in 1 liter of 10% sod thiosulfate with 10 ml of standard selenium sol. (B+S Fools Gold)
We got a much better dmax and consequently more contrast. At this point we are not sure of what the variable is that is causing us to add more water, it definitely makes a big difference and at this point we are not sure if more water will gain us any more benefits. Years ago, we discovered that one could, under certain conditions, add more water to a pt/pd sensitizer with no adverse effects. In this case there is definitely more contrast and yes, the dmax went down but I think the increased contrast is not totally tied to the dmax.
More as we go.
Here are some samples of prints before and after the addition of water to the sensitizer mix. My suspicions are that this phenomenon is not limited to this particular process but is likely applicable to many other processes as well. Here we are dealing with blush and/or “solarization.” Whether the two are one in the same, I am not sure but I think it is likely a culprit in other print processes as well. I know it occurs in Pt/Pd printing.
The interesting point is that the cure for the problem is counter-intuitive. Your normal response when you see your blacks degrading is to add more of something and that something ebing a more concentrated sensitizer or more metal salt when in fact it is the opposite, you need to dilute the sensitizer keeping the ratios of metal salt to other ingredients the same.
Maddy and I have not come to the point where adding more water reduces the dMax yet, we are working on that right now, bit for now, here are some sample prints.
Here is an image of Maddy’s with our “normal” sensitizer mix. Note the blush visible in the margins.
And the same print with an addition of 25% water to the sensitizer mix.
OK, I know the difference may be hard to see. It is a light reflection problem that is difficult to photograph. Trust me, there is a difference. I have a calibrated monitor and I tweaked the image a teeny bit to try to show the difference.
We have another image with a 50% addition instead of a 25% in the wash now and it looks pretty good but judging a wet print is pretty risky.
More to come.
This incident may have been replayed a number of times. I have been told that a similar incident has been recounted though I have told this story since it inception so it may have originated with me. However, I saw it, in the real.
Some time in late 1960 I was a Marine aboard the USS Cavalier along with 400 other Marines bound for duty in Asia. We docked in Pearl Harbor at Echo Pier which was right across from the USS Arizona. It was only a few hundred yards away. There was a pontoon over the wreckage and every morning a color guard went out and raised a flag. Everyone on board the Cavalier stood at attention and saluted. I am not sure that strict formal protocol required it, but that certainly was not the issue.
We came into the harbor at the crack of dawn.
Later in the morning while on deck I saw our Gunnery Sergeant sitting on one of those tree stump like things staring out at the Arizona, so I started to walk up and chat. I got waved back by some Marines a short distance away. At that point I was almost at the Gunny’s side and saw he had a face wet with tears. I backed away to my fellow Marines and one quietly whispered: “His father is on board.”
Military duty runs in families. My father was a WWII Marine. So the thousands of Sailors and Marines who may have docked at Echo Pier or one of the other nearby docks at Pearl, it is likely more than one Sailor or Marine could gaze upon the Arizona, and also the tomb of his father.