Photographic Processes: 1839 – 1889


PLATINUM PRINT (platinotype), 1880-1930

Iron-based paper positive with platinum as the final image material

Paper is brushed with a mixed solution of iron and platinum compounds and exposed to light through direct contact with a negative, resulting in a faint image. The image is then developed in a solution of potassium oxalate, causing the image to become fully pronounced. A subsequent hydrochloric acid solution was often used to clear the iron compound left in the paper, which was then washed in water. If the iron compound and/or the hydrochloric acid are not removed completely, the paper will discolor and become brittle over time.

A platinum print has a cool black/grey image tone. The platinum image is extremely stable and shows no signs of fading even after the paper support becomes yellow and brittle.

Burt Green Wilder Collection. Platinum Print, late 1880s. [zoom]
7 1/8 x 5 3/8 in.

Photography gave science a new way to record specimens. Burt Green Wilder (1841-1925) was a comparative anatomist and professor at Cornell University from 1867 to 1910. This platinum print shows a cross-section of a human brain, one of over 600 specimens in Wilder’s collection, to which his own brain was added after his death.

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