The Process

     Tri-colour bichromate gum over palladium  

It’s been said that true knowledge is created from understanding and transforming your own experience. While I continue to appreciate the art and science of palladium printing techniques, I’ve treasured my opportunities to learn from photographic printmaker Bob Carnie. While transforming my own photography experience, learning from Bob has been one of the highlights of my Unexpected Collection project and there is no doubt that this process will continue to influence my future creative direction.

The broken spoon photographs of An Unexpected Collection are printed using a 19th Century technique called tri-colour bichromate gum over Palladium. The technique’s timelessness, craftmanship and originality resonates with my approach to fine art photography.

Learning that this process produced work that would stand the test of time (this technique is reputed to maintain its quality for more than 500 years), I chose it out of a sense of archival responsibility. The enduring quality of the print ensures these stories can still be told for generations to come.

Using a preshrunk watercolour paper (I used Hahnemühle 100% Cotton Rag® for An Unexpected Collection), The paper is hand-brushed with a specific chemistry of palladium and ferric oxalate and set to dry in low light conditions. Fixing the negative to the dried substrate, it is then exposed the image to UV light in a burner. The metal-halide screen exposure system vacuums the print and negative together to create a very close contact during exposure that is important for highly detailed artwork. The paper is then put into 3 different stop baths of at least 10 minutes each.

This hand-painted application process is then repeated for each pigment layer over the palladium (Yellow, Magenta, then Cyan) and can be repeated a virtually unlimited number of times to create the desired effect. As you might expect with this crafted process, no two images are alike, despite starting with the same negative. Each one-of-a-kind image can take up to 5 days or more to process.