The Lure Of Collodion - Modern Times

By: Scully & Osterman

In recent times, printers of platinum/palladium, gum, carbon, salt and albumen prints have made negatives with ortho film, digital facsimiles or conventional silver gelatin films. Collodion negatives, on the other hand, were the negatives of choice when most of these printing processes were introduced. These negatives can be tailored for printing any of the "alternative" printing processes, as well as developed-out silver gelatin and digital prints.

Light Pours In
Light Pours In, France Scully Osterman, collodion negative
Light Pours In Saltprint
Light Pours In, France Scully Osterman, waxed salt print
Reverie, France Scully Osterman, waxed salt print

For the most part, contemporary artists have only scratched the surface of collodion as a medium. Celebrating the obvious color limitations and process artifacts -- flaws, swirls, and markings, the advanced techniques are just beginning to be discovered. Only a handful of artists have explored the art of negative making (for salt and albumen papers), and even fewer their manipulation. Retouching medium, graphite and ink can be applied directly to the glass or onto tissue overlays.

Mark adds light to negative
Mark Osterman adds "light" to his negative with opaque
Lantern Magic
Lantern Magic, 2006, Mark Osterman, Gold-toned salt print from collodion negative

This is no way to suggest a return to 19th c. sensibilities, or to demonize the use of process artifacts. However, the liberal use of artifacts does not diminish the need for mastering a process. Experience and finesse may support, further enhance and/or judiciously constrain the use of flaws and serendipity. One can only imagine the synergy achieved when the vision of a new generation meets the same skill level witnessed in the golden age of collodion.

Unless otherwise indicated, all contemporary images © 2009 Scully & Osterman, used with permission. All 19th c. images courtesy Scully & Osterman Archives.

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