PICTURE BY DAVID KOPPELL
Award winning photographer Steven Taylor hit upon his vocation at the age of ten when he found a camera at a local landfill site.
Self-taught as a photographer, Taylor first studied horticulture, he then started his own business as a landscape gardener while at the same time experimenting with macro photography leading to the creation of floral images.
In 1994 the receipt of a major photographic competition resulted in a career change and soon he was working full-time as a commercial photographer for one of the biggest agents in London.
He gave up commercial work in 2005 to concentrate on fine art photography. His preference is to employ traditional methods, using ultra-large format cameras working with film and hand made papers. Most recently he acquired and restored a camera originally built over 100 years ago and began to work with processes developed in the mid 1800s. "After working for the last 10 years in the digital medium I started to feel detached from the process of making a photograph". Being more hands on, Taylor now feels totally involved in the art of image-making, working long hours painstakingly fine-tuning the final print in his bespoke darkroom at home producing work for the discriminating collector and exhibitors.
Taylor continues to work both in his darkroom at home and two custom built mobile darkrooms, one with self contained living quarters which also serves as a platform from which to traverse the landscape here in the UK and abroad.
The Platinum Printing Process
The discovery that Platinum might be instramental in creating a positive image from a photographic negative came about through the experiments carried out by sir John Herschel, son of the famous astronomer William Herschel in the 1830's. In the years following practitioners eventually, after decades of frustrating failures, became successful in securing an image on a paper medium but this wasn't untill the 1870's and 1880's.
Finally a reliable and commercial process was patented and released onto the market in 1880 by William Willis and subsequently became the most popular printing medium up to the 1st world war.
Platinum is an essential ingredient in the production of armaments the demand for which pushed up prices beyond that practical for the photographic industry. Silver quickly took over and remains that way to the present.
Those that are interested or hold a passion for collecting photographs a Platinum/Palladium print is an object of desire born out of the difficulty and expense in producing them. For that fact they remain quite rare.
Platinum/Palladium prints are known for their beauty along with ultimate archival stability. Made from the most stable of metals these prints are also called “platinotypes” or “palladiotypes” when using a combination of the two metals they are called "Platino-Palladiotypes".
Platinum and Palladium along with Gold are classified as noble metals on the Periodic Table, one of their main qualities being resistant to oxidation. The platinum solution is imbedded into the fiber of the paper during the printing process.
As with most historical photographic processes, a platinum print is made by placing the negative and the emulsion-coated paper in direct contact. Therefore, the size of the photographic print is equal to the size of the negative.
Platinum prints have a different “look” from silver gelatin or digital prints. All Platinum prints have a matte, not glossy surface, because the sensitizer is absorbed into the paper rather than sitting on the surface. A platinum print also has a more gradual tonal change from black to white. To the eye accustomed to the punch of a silver gelatin print, a platinum print will often feel “softer” or lower in contrast. In reality there are actually more steps between pure black and pure white in platinum prints than in a silver gelatin print. This contributes to the deeper, richer feeling you experience when looking at these prints.
My prints are made from hand-mixed and hand-coated emulsions. These sensitizers are mixed just prior to use, I then employ a coating technique and apply the chemicals onto the paper using a glass rod. Once dry, a negative is placed in direct contact with the paper, and then exposed to strong ultraviolet light. Exposure to the light source takes a few minutes to an hour or more, depending on the density and contrast of the negative.
The image tone of a Platinum/Palladium print can vary widely in color. These prints can range from a cool, slightly purple black to split tones of brown and warm black, to a very warm brown. The proportions of Platinum to Palladium in the emulsion along with a couple of other factors control the final color.
As these emulsions are mixed and coated by hand no two prints are exactly alike.
To add to the longevity of my images I prefer to print on a "hand made" paper especially made for the process by a master paper maker in France. This paper is made from pure Linen and is unique.
It will be interesting to note that the "Gutenberg bible", which was printed in the 1450's is also printed on pure linen paper!
It is a fabulous work of art in it's own right and remains as fresh and vibrant as the day it was printed.
There is no reason to deny, that under favourable conditions, a print employing one or more of the noble metals laid on pure linen maintains the potential to survive thousands of years.