The Platinum Process
Back in the days before digital, I shot film on large format cameras, processed the film myself, and printed in the darkroom. I'm not saying it was fourscore and seven years ago, but close. Almost two decades had passed when my commercial career took me further and further away from the tangible art I fell in love with. Not to mention the thousands of hours spent in dark places on sunny days to achieve such mastery.
In 2018, after relocating back to NYC after years on the West Coast, I put my commercial work on pause to learn platinum printing. Long days and nights were spent learning how to make my own negatives. I built a darkroom in my basement boiler room in Brooklyn. I had a 2x2 foot area to stand in and a counter made from random street-find Ikea parts and cinder blocks as my work surface. No running water. But after months of trial-and-error, I figured out a formula that worked for me.
In the last century, a long list of the world’s master photographers has chosen Platinum-Palladium printing for their most important and intimate images: among them are Paul Strand, Irving Penn, Alfred Stieglitz, Frederick Evans, and Laura Gilpin. Despite the scarcity, expense, and painstaking nature of the printing process as it was being developed, history’s most revered photographers chose this method. Contemporary masters continue to prize this printing method above all others.
Platinum printing is a contact process, which means that a large format negative of the same size as the desired print size must be produced first. I mix my own photochemistry and hand coat a fine art cotton rag paper from France with a paintbrush. The paper is sandwiched with the negative and exposed to UltraViolet light. Once exposed, the print is developed and washed for final proofing. This results in a one-of-a-kind handmade print.
Platinum-Palladium prints convey detail even within the darkest shadows and reveal a range of inviting tonal warmth. These prints are known not only for their beauty but also for their permanence. The noble metals used in the printing process actually become embedded in the fibers of the paper, rather than floating above the paper in a gelatin base. These Platinum metals are more stable than gold and with careful choices of paper can achieve an archival rating of over 1500 years.
The meticulous and often pain-staking effort involved in mastering Platinum prints reinvigorated my love for photography. My work is tangible again. Inkjet (pigment prints) were never satisfying. Seeing my work in magazines and on screens became mundane. Platinum printing connected me to my subject again. The beauty I see in them is reflected in the beauty of the print.
I am one of the rare photographers in complete control of their art form from beginning to end. Concept to completion. I have the honor of falling in love with my subjects twice - once when I take the photo and the second time when I hold the final print.
My latest project captures artists, musicians, creatives, and mavericks and immortalizes them in Platinum. This group helps move the collective conscience. They improve the lives of countless people, often without acknowledgment or reward. Their legacy can live long past our existence and be celebrated by curious minds one thousand years from now. My hope is that my photographs will stand as a testament to their accomplishments.