Multi-Layer Platinum Printing – The Kosel Method
September 9, 2013
I have been researching multi-layered platinum/palladium printing aswell as using the technique for a number of years now. I wrote an article on the subject for the International Journal of Photographic Art and Practice in 2010, a copy of which can be downloaded here. Quite a few people confuse this technique with either double coating platinum and palladium with one exposure cycle or the act of sandwiching a number of negatives together using one exposure cycle, it is neither. The process was used extensively by Irving Penn for a great number of his most celebrated images and initially involves bonding the printing substrate to aluminium to enable the paper to have dimensional stability.
A number of negatives are then created which can include shadow, midtone and highlight separations, these are then printed in succession going through multiple exposure and development cycles. Recently whilst researching the technique I came across an interesting article written by Walter Zimmerman. Published in 1913 it reviews the ‘Kosel’ method of multi-layer printing aswell as offering a direct translation of the technique, a pdf of the article can be downloaded here. Although he states he had not tested Kosel’s working practices he is somewhat critical of the approach suggesting the use of such a technique is ‘principally adapted to use of persons having an abundance of time and a liking to experiment‘ ( I do like to experiment however i do not have an abundance of time!!!). He does also offer some interesting alternative approaches that are worth reading.
I am wondering whether Penn might have come across this article when he started researching platinum printing during his many visits to the New York Library in the early 1960’s. As the article suggests the aim of Multi layer printing is to ‘lengthen the scale of gradations of the photograph’ a claim that I have found to be the case using such an approach aswell as increasing the maximum density of the blacks (DMAX). An example is shown below and ilustrates a comparison between a single coated platinum print and a multi-layered platinum print.
I have yet to digest the entire article but will post a follow up on anything that I have found interesting and revealing about the ‘Kosel method’.