From: Suzanne Izzo (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: 04/10/00-11:22:30 AM Z
A wonderful exhibit of albumen prints by Carleton Watkins is on view at
the National Gallery of Art through May 7. I've been down to see it
twice now and have a couple questions:
1. I've been wanting to do some albumen printing for some time mostly
because of how beautiful I find the early work like that of Watkins.
It occurred to me, however, that perhaps the look that I like so much is
not due solely to the albumen process but rather to the combination of the
collodion plate and the albumen paper. Is it possible to get the same
look with a silver negative?
2. Yesterday I went to the gallery talk on the Watkins exhibit. The
tour leader admitted at the beginning that he was an art historian not
a photographer and so wouldn't be able to answer technical questions.
(I had assumed as much, so I wasn't surprised.) He did, however, give
a brief description of collodion plates and albumen paper. He mentioned
that the plates had to be used before they dried, and went on to say
that as a result only 4 or 5 prints could be made there in the field
(the small number of prints contributing to the scarcity of the prints).
Then the photographer would scrape off the emulsion and reuse the glass.
I interjected that while the plate had to be exposed before drying the
prints could be made later. He said no, that that was what he had read
and that the "negative" deteriorated on drying and produced inferior prints.
No point in arguing since although I have seen the excellent demonstration
by Scully and Osterman, I have never used collodion plates myself.
Looking in books back home, I find nothing to suggest that the plates
must be printed before drying although they do need to be processed
immediately. Perhaps I was reading between the lines, but I always
understood that the photographers lugging around the huge mammoth plates
in the American west took them back to the studio to print.
Could someone who knows the process comment?
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