Number of grey tones possible with Platinum prints

March 8, 2012

  Historically there has always been strong comparisons made between platinum/palladium and silver gelatin prints. Regarding tonal range and optical sharpness the general consensus is that platinum/palladium prints have more evenly distributed mid tones and a more delicate response in the highlight values. Silver prints are able to produce a greater reflection density Dmax i.e depth of black and also appear sharper than platinum/palladium prints.

 Recently I heard one expert state that platinum prints have twice as many grey tones than silver prints. I like doing comparisons in the darkroom, it would be interesting to learn how one would go about testing this claim. Penn may have had this on his mind to in the late 1980’s…..

Study of the range of possible greys in a platinum print March 1989
( From A Notebook a Random, Irving Penn,2005,Bulfinch Press)

4 Responses to “Number of grey tones possible with Platinum prints”

  1. Stan Klimek Says:

    That is just a wonderful study by Penn. It appears that he created a light print and then came in with black India ink washes diluted with different values and brushed in his study.

  2. David Chow Says:

    Thanks Stan for that, I was curious to learn more about what he was upto. Having done a bit of research it would seem that he printed two versions of this iconic image, a platinum/palladium printed in 1976 (edition of 34)

    Platinum/Palladium (Printed 1976)

    and a silver gelatin version printed in 1984. As one can clearly see quite a different crop in the pt/pd version.

    Silver Gelatin (Printed 1984)

  3. Stan Klimek Says:

    Yes it is true that Pt/Pd will have the expanded mid tones over the silver print but look ay that platinum print from Penn exhibiting the majority of tones in only the deepest blacks and whitest whites (1st) example, goes to show how great he was in in pre-visualizing what he wanted and knew how to adjust for the negative to achieve it…

  4. David Chow Says:

    It would be nice to see the two together to compare, however it would be quite difficult, i had a look at the National gallery archive of Penn’s work to see if they had them but I cant Pt/Pd version on the list, http://www.nga.gov/cgi-bin/tsearch?oldartistid=570277 It would seem that they own the largest collection of Penn platinum prints as a result of him donating 83 of them in 2002.


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