Sunday, May 8, 2011

05. Albumen

albumen print: invented in 1850 by Louis Desire Blanquart-Evrard.  It was the first commercially successful method of producing a photographic print from a negative.  Albumen is considered to be a salted printed out paper process where albumen (egg whites) is the coating under the light sensitive silver nitrate layer.  The image that results is a warm reddish brown before toning.  The albumen process improved the photographic print to where the industry was able to produce and distribute it commercially.  Therefore allowing not only the wealthy elite to benefit from it but also the middle class.  The albumen after drying becomes a hard, glossy surface.  With multiple coatings the gloss can be increased.  The hard surface also yields high detail in the image.

"...the Journal of the Franklin Institute reported that the new process produced prints that were, 'unalterable to the light, lose none of their qualities however long the time they may be used ,are capable of being renewed if by accident they should be lost provided that one proof of the lost matrix remains and lastly can at all times and under all temperatures and variations of light furnish satisfactory results.((Philadelphia & Pa.), 1850)'" (Goings, Albumen)

Between the years 1850-1860 two technical improvements were made to the albumen process: alkaline gold toning and improved coating techniques (better gloss).

 Louis Desire Blanquart-Evrard: credited with the invention of the albumen printing out process.  Blanquart-Evrard began experimenting with albumen for both negative and positive printed out papers but found that the process was most successful as a positive print (1850).  His first formula consisted of beaten egg whites and salt.  The solution was made by beating the whites of eggs until a froth and then adding 25% (by weight) salt to the froth.  This solution then sat overnight.

1. First we chose and cut down our 100% rag paper.
2. The albumen mixture was made by the class.  Separating eggs and saving the whites (500 mL), adding vinegar (3 mL), and salt (7.5 g).
3. The solution was shaken up in a container until a froth was formed.  The solution then sat for a couple of days to ferment.
4. Before coating the paper the albumen was strained through a cheese cloth.  The papers where then coated by letting them float on top of the soltution.
5. Each person made two papers with one coat and two papers with two coats of albumen.  For two coats the first coat was air dried, then dipped in an alcohol bath, dried, and lastly coated with albumen again.
6. After all of the papers were coated with albumen and dried they were then coated with the light sensitive silver nitrate solution.
7. The paper was then exposed to the sun with a negative (created outside of class) on top.  Exposure time was about seven minutes.
8. The images were then put through washes and fixed in hypo.
9. After class I put my images into a fresh water wash for another thirty minutes.

Albumen recipe used in class:  500 mL egg white
                                                     3 mL vinegar
                                                     7.5 g salt 

Generic Albumen recipe:         15 g ammonium chloride
                                                    2 mL glacial acetic acid
                                                    30 mL water
                                                    1 L egg white

**It is important to avoid air bubbles when putting solution into the tray for coating and while coating the papers.  After one coat is applied the paper should be hung to dry by a corner (allows access to drip off evenly).

Toning:  the print can be toned before fixing in hypo.  Toning with a gold toner produces a more desirable image color and was discovered in 1855 by James Waterhouse.

Gold Toner Recipe:                   10 g borax
                                                     40 mL 1% gold chloride solution
                                                     60 mL water

Overall I had issues creating a successful print.  The negative I used originally was too thin and therefore there was little to no detail in the darks.  I then created a paper negative by oiling the paper to get a velum texture (translucent).  This resulted in a better overall image.  My silver coating was pretty good for the albumen coated papers but a little streaky when it came to the arrowroot paper.  When comparing the two surfaces I find the albumen to be more desirable because of the gloss of the paper.  Scratches on arrowroot print are from classmates while in washes.

 Albumen image

Arrowroot image

Paper negative

Overall, I was successful in creating an image but not in making a good print.  My negative must have more detail and contrast to yield better dynamic range in the print.  My coating also has to improve.  Lighter pressure and more silver could be the key.  I also need to keep a close eye on my prints while they are in the fix and wash to protect them from angry spatulas.


Quinn Jacobson
 4"x5" Wet Collodion Negative - Waxed Albumen Print

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