Platinum/Palladium Printing: “A Noble Process in a Digital Age”

The 21st century has seen unprecedented technical developments in photography. This is due in large to the commercial advances of new electronic imaging technology, and skyrocketing prices in the auction houses. Digital sensors are replacing film. Old processes give way to convenience, creating the modern desktop darkroom.

How do artists avoid becoming part of an industry that has turned fine art into a commodity? To quote John Stevenson who has over 25 years experience collecting platinum prints:

“It may be that photography has one more dimension still largely unexplored, one more joy. It unfolds when we go beyond the making of the marvelous image, into the making of the marvelous expression of the image. When we go beyond the artist’s eye, to the artist’s hand.”

John coined the following phrase for a show that included platinum prints at his gallery: “Noble Processes in a Digital Age”.

Unrivaled by any other printing process, platinum, like gold, is a noble and stable metal. Platinum Palladium prints are noted for a wide tonal scale, the absence of a binder layer allows very fine crystals of platinum to be embedded into the paper. This gives it a three-dimensional appearance.

Platinum Palladium prints reveal tones that range from cool blacks and neutral grays, to rich sepia browns. Paper choice is key. I use Hahnemuhle Platinum Paper, or a handmade, 100% Japanese Hosokawa Washi Paper. UNESCO officially registered “Washi: handmade Japanese papermaking and techniques” into the ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage’. The specific types of Washi that were recognized are Sekishu Banshi (Shimane prefecture), Hon Mino-shi (Gifu) and Hosokawa-shi (Saitama).

In fact Rembrandt also used this type of paper. According to the article “Rembrandt and Gampi”, written by Bruce Meade:

“As an artist, Rembrandt was fortunate to be living in a 1650’s Holland, with whom Japan made its first western trade agreement. It was this “luck” combined with his fiercely open-minded searching nature that led him to experiment with Gampi. His desire for the deepest, most inward expression in his work was answered by the warm living presence of this beautiful paper."

In the age of mass production and digital distribution, we forget the notion of artifact and the pleasure of appreciating beautiful, one-of-a-kind, handmade art object. Platinum photography is a craft that is learned by experience, for the purpose of personal satisfaction and achievement. A Platinum print is labor intensive and the result of a labor of love. 

These hand-made images are "investment grade"- not simply décor. They are archival. As long as they are not damaged, these images are a legacy that will last longer than we will. There are many examples of Japanese Paintings made on this same paper that date more than 800 years. Heat, humidity, weather conditions, Platinum and Palladium solutions formulas, brush strokes, all affect the finished product. Thus, no two Platinum Palladium prints are ever identical. In the end, what unfolds is more of an ‘art-object' than an ordinary photograph.

Images shown on this website are low resolution pictures of actual platinum prints. 

Thank you for your patience in reading this.

David Tepper

Note: Erik Hinterding, whose essay “The Etchings – Experimental Technique” in the catalogue of the “Late Rembrandt” exhibition (2015 Rijksmuseum) provided invaluable insights.

Please contact me to discuss your printing needs or your next project. or fill out form on the Contact Page.

Thank you.