in 1850 by Louis Désiré Blanquart-Evrard, the
albumen print became the dominant photographic printing process
for nearly fifty years. Most of the albumen prints in the A.
D. White Architectural Photographs Collection were produced
between 1865 and 1895.
First, a thin piece of paper is coated with an emulsion containing
both egg white (albumen) and salt (usually sodium chloride).
A subsequent immersion in a bath of silver nitrate renders the
paper light-sensitive. The paper is next dried in the dark,
then placed in a frame under a glass negative (most often, it
was a glass negative with a collodion emulsion) and exposed
in direct sunlight until the image achieves the proper level
of darkness (from a few minutes to an hour, depending on light
conditions). Albumen prints are thus contact
printed, or placed in direct contact with the negative.
Since the image emerges as a direct result of exposure to light
and without the aid of a developing solution, the albumen print
is a Printed-Out (rather than Developed-Out) photograph. A bath
of sodium thiosulfate then fixes the prints exposure and
prevents further darkening. Finally, gold toning improves the
photographs tone and helps protect it from fading.
During the first stage of preparation, the viscous albumen coating
fills in the pores of the paper and produces an even, slightly
glossy surface. Because the albumen covers the paper fibers
so smoothly, the process is particularly well suited to capturing
fine detail. On very close examination, however, the surface
may be covered with tiny fissures, as the albumen layer sometimes
cracks as it dries. Although albumen prints are highly prone
to fading, the general tone is yellowish, with cream-colored
highlights and deep chocolate brown shadows. They can range
from reddish-brown to purplish-blue.
1855-1920 (although most albumen prints in the A. D. White Architectural
Photographs Collection were produced between 1865 and 1895)