The importance of viewing original prints

March 5, 2012

As a printer if you want to attempt to reach the heights of the masters that have come before, it is important to view and have access to original prints of the particular process you are trying to perfect. The Victoria and Albert museum house some exceptional platinum prints that one can view for as long as you like, the staff are very helpful and the room is usually not that busy.

The museum has around 20 of Irving Penn’s platinum prints that are possible to study in detail. Three years ago when I started to become interested in multi-layer platinum/palladium printing I visited the print room as often as possible. On one occasion I took the book Irving Penn ‘Platinum Prints’ along as reference to compare to the originals. I always thought the reproductions in the book were rather warm when compared to the original prints, which you should be able to see in the photos below. It distilled how important it is to view original prints vs. reproductions in books and preferably not behind glass.

5 Moroccan Women,1971 20¼ x 19¾in, Multi-layer Platinum-Palladium print, flush-mounted on aluminium, printed 1980

‘Camel Pack’, shown below has a great amount of detail and depth to it, almost three dimensional, undestandably the reproduction does not portray this.

Camel Pack, 29 x 22 in, Single Layer Platinum-Palladium, printed 1975.

‘Nubile Beauty of Diamare Cameroon’, is a stunning image, the way the texture of the skin is reproduced in the portrait is the best I have seen of any platinum/palladium print.

Sitting Girl, Cameroon (Nubile Young Beauty of Diamare) 1974, 19 x 19 in, Multi-layer Platinum-Palladium print, flush-mounted on aluminium, printed 1978

Sitting Girl, Cameroon (Nubile Young Beauty of Diamare) Detail view

2 Responses to “The importance of viewing original prints”

  1. Matt Says:

    I have followed you study of Penn’s work for a while now, with great interest. Have you ever came across what his mix was? What % plat/Plad he used? Also the developer? His work is some of the best with regards to Platinum Palladium printing. Penn had it down pat.


  2. David Chow Says:

    Hi Mark

    At present I do not know the exact mixes Penn used for his platinum/palladium prints, if one looks at the back of one of his prints it does mention in what order he coated plat/plad, as far as I know the exact mixes were not listed on the back but on the working sheets which only one is viewable in the public domain. I am certain the mixes would have been different according to the type of image and effect he was trying to achieve with the print. I believe the developer he used was potassium oxalate.

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