Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Ivorytype - an experiment with 19th century photographic processes

In the second semester of my third year I decided to take Historical Process as one of my professional electives. I think it was a good choice since I have always been interested in old images and collecting them as well as learning how to restore and enhance them. Now I get to learn how to create them! It will be a long and arduous process but I'm ready! (I hope...)

The process that I've chosen to learn is called an Ivorytype. It is little known 19th century process that creates a delicate, hand-painted, positive image, which is affixed to glass. John E. Mayall is credited with having developed the process in London, England in the mid 1850’s.

The version created by Mayall consisted of an image exposed onto a piece of natural of imitation ivory using the albumen method. After exposure, the image was processed and the albumen coating was rubbed off while still wet. The remaining faded image was then gold toned to make it more visible and permanent. When dry, the image was coloured as a traditional ivory miniature figurine would have.

An American man named Mr. Wenderoth introduced another version of the Ivorytype in 1855. It is more common because it is simpler to produce and uses more readily available materials, such as paper as opposed to ivory. This process is created by superimposing a hand-tinted salted paper print onto an identical, more subdued print to add more depth, contrast. The images are then sealed to the backside of a piece of glass with pure white wax.  Varying the thickness of glass, the distance between the image on glass and the identical image or the background can create varying fashions of this process.

Used in the making of Ivorytypes are salted paper prints. This process was the first type of photographic print made on paper and laid the groundwork for many of the printing-out processes that would follow. Invented by British photographer William Henry Fox Talbot, salted paper prints were first used to make his photogenic drawings and later in his process of Calotype printing. 

Salted paper prints remained the preferred printing process from approximately 1839 to 1860 when they were superseded by the Albumen process. As mentioned, Talbot used this type of print in a process called Calotype printing in which he would make a negative print on paper and transfer onto salted paper to make a positive print. Salted paper prints are identified by their matte surface and subdued contrast. In these types of prints the image resides within the fibers of the paper not suspended on the surface in a gelatin or coating as in later processes.

Salted paper prints can be made from glass negatives, paper negatives like Talbot’s Calotype’s, or with today’s technology a film negative of digital negative. Positives made from paper negatives tended to produce somewhat grainy images but could be made clearer by applying wax to the negative. Glass negatives however produced a much crisper, sharper image. Salted paper prints generally have a subdued matte surface because the tones are embedded into the fibres of the paper, not suspended in a bonding agent.

The print is created by following these steps:
1.           Coat the paper with ammonium chloride or sodium chloride (salt)
2.           Leave the paper to dry fully
3.           Under safelights, float the paper in a solution of silver nitrate
4.           Expose the paper to a negative
5.           Fix the print
6.           Wash fix from the print
7.           Dry

To produce and Ivorytype the finished salted paper print is then flattened and painted or coloured with pencils. Pure white wax is then heated and poured onto a plate of glass, which must also be heated. The print is then slowly lowered onto the plate starting from the middle, and pushing outwards towards the edges, making sure to dispel and air bubbles or ripples in the print. Then a sheet of clean white paper is placed behind the adhered print, which should be smooth and somewhat translucent. A duplicate of the photo can also be added behind to add more depth, contrast, and colour of needed.

 Ivorytypes have a very interesting objectivity that really speaks to the very early days of photography in which photographs were treasured and uncommon objects. They possess a very intriguing delicateness that is open to creativity and experimentation.  When I was choosing a process I wanted to try one that allowed for me to work the prints in different ways, which in the case of the Ivorytype means being able to tint the image, experiment with different types of paper, and also work with glass and wax for the first time. I am really looking forward to working in the darkrooms to create salted paper prints and turning them into ivorytypes!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

the human subject

 Test shot, thoughts please! I intend to use better lighting that won't have such a strange colour cast, but this was just to test if my concept translates framing-wise.

            The theme that I would like to explore involving the human subject is of the nature of sleep and of closing ones eyes. I am interested in the physical form that the face takes when the eyes are closed. In Western Society the eyes are seen as a major point of connection between people, and I would like to explore this idea through the use of photography.
            By having the subjects eyes closed, the portrait will be denying the viewer the ability to gauge the subject through connection of the eyes. The viewer will then be forced to focus upon details that they would not normally look to first, like the form of the hands, arms, shoulders, as well as details in the face. I think it will also be interesting to see expressions and tensions shown in the subjects face as a reaction to my taking their portrait. There seems to always be a distrust of having one’s eyes closed in the presence of another and my hope is to create portraits that express the innocence and vulnerability that manifests itself once we close our eyes.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Mapping a Human Presence

I am constantly fascinated by the amount of character that a home can possess despite its essential bones of wood and concrete. Houses are not living beings, yet there is something about them that maintains a presence or aura. In a small period of time, a home can turn from a capsule for memories and place of from which we map our lives to an empty structure that becomes an arrangement of building materials. What happens after we leave?


            In developing this project I hope to convey my personal fascination with the phenomena of abandoned homes and by the virtue of photographing one, map out a human presence that once occupied it. Through mapping it I hope to convey the particular flavour and aura of the house and by means of the contents left within it, begin to tell the viewer a fragmented story of it’s occupants.

Monday, March 14, 2011

the fairbank mansion

This is a documentary series that I recently began on the Fairbank Mansion, in Petrolia, Ontario. It was built in 1890 by John Henry Fairbank, an oil magnate and successful businessman in the area. It is a beautiful old home that boasts the amenities and character of the era of wealth and low building costs. The three story home has 6 bedrooms, 6 baths, 6 fireplaces, a billiards room, ballroom, library and full servants quarters. It was kept in the Fairbank family for several years, until it was no longer affordable and it was sold and its contents auctioned off. Since then, the house acted as an antique store, and was also utilized as apartments until a fire several years ago. Since then it has been vacant and the current owner has been working to return it to a livable condition. I was lucky enough to get permission to shoot the outside of the home, and here are a few shots from it. There are plans in motion to shoot the inside of it, though to my knowledge it is quite dilapidated as a result of fire and water damage.

If only I had a few million dollars laying around to buy it up and bring it back to the glory days...maybe someday! In one of the most well preserved and historically rich towns in Ontario, it's a shame that it sits slowly rotting and hasn't been historically designated.

Looking upwards from the ground at  the front of the house. You can see the
 intricate detailing in the trim around the front of the porch, 
and christmas lights left behind from days when the house was full. 
Looking towards the peak of the house you can see plywood covering 
the area where the fire broke out in the attic years ago. The top of the 
windows are charred black from it. Thankfully, the fire was stopped before it
 could consume the entire house. The entire interior of the house 
was built with brick as well, and prevented the inner walls from burning and collapsing.
The porch with the front door in the background, which would have been the main
entrance to the home. Storm doors cover the original oak doors.
A window on the first floor of the beautiful turret. The top windows
of the turret feature glass that was curved specially to fit.
The turret on the south east corner of the home.
The entire west side of the house.
The front veranda, which as you can see is in very bad shape.
The wrought iron that decorates the top of it is one of my favourite features of the house.
A window on the east side.
The veranda overgrown with vine. In the summer time the
 front of the house becomes hidden by overgrown shrubbery.
A large window on the west side of this house. Indoors,
this window would shine in on the landing of the oak staircase connecting
 the first floor to the second.
Beautiful wrought iron on the front veranda, another
example of the meticulous craftsmanship.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

the most amazing person i know.

The following are portraits of my great grandmother, who is 99 years old and 
one of the most interesting people I've ever met. So, when I had an assignment 
to do a psychological portrait, one that demonstrated the workings of the mind, 
personality and thoughts of a subject, I thought of her. The final image of the 
post is the one I chose to hand in. She wasn't crazy about me taking photos of her,
 in fact she told me she "didn't know why I would want to take pictures of her
 anyways," and fussed over what she should wear and so on. They're simple 
and that's why i love them. She isn't the person that likes all the fuss, and that's
 how I wanted her pictures to be. She looks warm, radiant, strong and happy, 
and it's an experience I won't forget.

this was one of the first batch i took. 

This was the second round of pictures that I took that she doesn't know about quite yet. 
After doing her formal portraits I noticed one of her violets in bloom so I took 
a few shots of it and then sat back down across from her with my camera in 
my lap. I realized, that maybe if I could angle my camera just the right way
 that I could get some really original shots and get the true great grandma 
as she talked to me. Some of them aren't perfect, and she probably thinks
 they're terrible, but I'm glad I'll always have those little moments
 that are truly grandma. The crops are a little off, but I'd say their pretty good for 
shooting blindly from my lap!

this is the cute little face she makes when you say something that makes her laugh so
she looks away and giggles and does sort of a little head shake at you.

her deeply listening to what your saying.

chit chatting.

sitting in my favourite blue chair, chatting away.


the final shot and my absolute favourite, it's truly her; so strong in everything
she does, thinks, and says, accepting of the way in which her life has unfolded so far,
 but more importantly, completely satisfied with the everything that life has given her.

funnily enough she told me as I was shooting her that I shouldn't
expect much of the photos. little does she realize they're
the best portraits i've made so far.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Documentary Project - Working Images

These are some of my working images for a term documentary project. The subject I chose to document are the unique, beautiful and historic buildings and architectural features of the city of Toronto. There is still a lot of work to be done with tone, levels, and contrast. Please leave your feedback as these are working and not final images! 



#3 East of Yonge

#4 College Park, East Facade

#5 University of Toronto

#6 Toronto Police Headquarters






#12   Queens Park South Facade

#13   Queens Park Facing West

#14 University of Toronto

#15  Princess Margaret Hospital


#18 (Ignore the coloured lines,  it something odd the blog did when I uploaded it!)