Platinum palladium prints (Pt/Pd) are among the most beautiful and permanent of all photographs. Their qualities have long been acclaimed by photographers such as Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand and Irving Penn who called them the prince of all media - as well as curators, critics and collectors. They provide a wide range of subtle tones with the image being embedded in the fibres of the paper instead of in an emulsion coating on the paper surface. Thus, like salted prints and cyanotypes, the surfaces of platinum prints have a wonderfully natural matt finish. Because the print is made of metallic platinum which is highly stable, these photographs are resistant to fading.
Development of the Platinum Process
The platinum process was elaborated in England in the 1870s by William Willis who obtained the first patent for its development. Through "The Platinotype Company" which he founded, Willis developed a ready-to-use platinum coated paper which helped promote a steady growth in its popularity until World War I, when a rise in the price of platinum as a result of its use in munitions production, heralded its rather sudden demise.
It was again recently, in the late 1960s, for reasons which included a growing dissatisfaction with silver printing, a demand for more satisfying print rendering as well as a curiosity in the rediscovery of old printing processes, that a resurgence in platinum printing took place.
The Platinum Process
A platinum palladium print, also called platinotype, is a hand-coated print which is characterised by subtle black and white tones. It is achieved through a contact printing process obtained by exposing a negative against a sheet of paper coated with a sensitized solution (mixture of platinum and palladium salts added to ferric oxalate) to ultraviolet light.