My first art historical love was Michelangelo. Inaugurated by reading Vasari’s Lives of the Most Excellent Painters, Sculptors, and Architects at the impressionable age of fifteen years old, this passion for the work of one man set off years of obsessive reading of Italian Renaissance history, literature, and art. Years later, I created this collection of photographs as an homage to the eternal classicism found in Rome and its environs, that same classicism that inspired Michelangelo. The timing of the trip was historical itself; occurring just after the death of Pope John Paul II, it corresponded to the election of Pope Benedict XVI.
Prints of this collection have been produced by hand, using historical processes and chemical formulas from the nineteenth-century. For more information on these processes, descriptions are provided below the portfolio.
POP (Printing Out Process)
POP, or Printing Out Process, has a tradition going back to the 1860s when the first silver chloride/gelatin-based printing-out papers were produced as an alternative to albumen. POP was widely used from the 1880s through the first half of the twentieth century, its popularity due to the particular characteristic curve that yields high shadow definition and contrast while simultaneously not blowing out highlights. The result of this attribute is a print that exhibits a delicate and smooth tonal structure with detailed shadows and soft highlights.
Like with Cynotypes and Vandyke brownprints, POP prints are contact printed in the sun or another UV light source, using negatives the same size as the final image. They are developed in running water, then toned in gold or platinum, or split-toned using a combination of the two. The toning transforms the fragile silver chloride into heavier metals, insuring permanency, as well as producing a range of colors or tints. These colors are influenced by the time left in the toner or toners, by the ambient humidity and temperature in the developing room, and by the change in seasons. This results in a print that evokes the very moment of its production.
Cyanotype was the first successfully realized and practical non-silver iron process. This process was used by Anna Atkins (1799-1871), the first woman photographer and a friend of Sir John Hershel’s. The process has a long history of being used for landscape, garden, and other natural subjects. Invented by Sir John Hershel in 1842, it records images in a range of blue values by using a simple combination of ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide coated onto paper. Cyanotype is a contact printing process that requires a negative the size of the final print. This negative + sensitized paper is exposed by sunlight or its UV equivalent, then washed out and left to dry.
Cyanotypes are often left in their original blue state, but they also can be modulated with toners or mixed with other photographic processes in order to create additional colors and tonalities.
Vandyke brownprint, also called Van Dyke, is an elegantly simple iron-based process using ferric ammonium citrate, tartaric acid, and silver nitrate. This sensitizing chemical is brushed onto watercolor/printmaking paper and left to dry. Like Cyanotype, Vandyke brownprint is a contact printing process that requires a negative the size of the final print, and the print is made in UV light. The print is washed, then a selection of chemical additives is used to adjust the contrast level of each print, as well as take into consideration the ph level of a given city’s water. The print is fixed in sodium thiosulfate, washed again, then hung to dry.
The basis for this process was developed in the 1840s. Its close cousin would be the Kallitype process formally developed in the 1880s. As the Kallitype process was commercialized through various papers and variations, it overshadowed the Vandkye brownprint, which fell into obscurity.