1961 mentions Vandyke as one of the ferric-silver process. Today the most accepted practice is to distinguish Vandyke and kallitype as separate processes. For more details see Ed Buffaloe’s notes on the subject at http://unblinkingeye.com
In Vandyke a suitable paper is coated with a solution containing ferric ammonium citrate, silver nitrate and tartaric acid, using either rod or brush. When dry, the sensitized paper is exposed by contact printing to a negative under an ultraviolet light source. Exposure may be done in a contact-printing frame, in a vacuum frame, or even by simply placing the negative and sensitized paper under a sheet of thick glass. After exposure, the paper is developed in plain water, toned, fixed, washed and dried.
There is virtually no control of contrast with the Vandyke process so it is essential to begin with a negative of the right contrast. This is an important consideration in printing with in-camera negatives because the negative must be exposed and developed to exactly the right contrast for optimum results. However, if one prints with digital negative it is an easy matter to adjust the contrast of the negative to exactly match the process and the UV light source.
There are many good articles on the web and in books on Vandyke printing. This article will focus on gold toned Vandyke because of the very distinctive look of prints toned with gold, and their excellent long term stability. Toning a Vandyke print with gold will result in a very high percentage of the silver metal being replaced with gold metal. The print will have a distinctive blue tone, but more importantly the image is made up mostly of gold metal, which is highly stable, even more so than platinum and palladium.
The ES (Exposure Scale) of gold-toned Vandyke is about log 1.8, lower than un-toned Vandyke where the ES is around log 2.2. And while un-toned Vandyke has a very long shoulder and compression in the highlights, the typical curve of a gold toned Vandyke is almost completely linear. The ES is of course subject to variation in local use due to differences in RH, chemicals and light source.
Vandyke, like kallitype and platinum/palladium, gives richer tones if coating and drying is carried out in
conditions of high humidity, at least 50% RH in my experience. If the room conditions cannot be raised to an acceptable RH the paper can be moistened before sensitizing by holding it over a kettle of boiling water for a couple of minutes.
The Vandyke process is based on ferric ammonium citrate, which contains ferric iron, Fe (3+). On exposure to ultraviolet light, ferric iron is reduced to ferrous iron, Fe (2+). To make a silver-iron print ferrous iron must be further reacted with silver nitrate.
The major danger to long-term permanence of a Vandyke print image is residual ferrous iron, Fe (2+). If even very small quantities of residual ferrous iron is left in the paper it will eventually oxidize the silver, and the image will fade. One of the keys to getting maximum archival quality with Vandyke is to make sure that initial development is carried out in a water bath that is slightly acidic. If the water is alkaline the residual ferrous iron will be set in the paper. On the other hand a water bath that is too acidic will reduce the silver and the reflective DMax of the print will be reduced.
The second key to image stability with Vandyke is direct toning in which the silver is replaced with another noble metal that is more resistant to oxidation by residual ferrous iron. Gold is the most noble of all metals and gives a highly distinctive cool blue tone print that is very archival. While Vandyke prints can also be toned with platinum and palladium the focus in this article is on making gold metal prints by toning with a gold thioruea formula.
Maximum permanence also requires proper fixing to remove unused silver, and removal of all residual hypo via an adequate wash. Toning with gold is carried out before fixing in order to avoid bleaching of the silver. A toned Vandyke print will lose very little shadow density because the fixer will not reduce the gold metal that replaces silver during toning.
For general instructions on working with alternative processes please consult the excellent article by Mike Ware, Preparations for Alternative, on his personal web site. I highly recommend this article for anyone new to alternative printing.
Necessary Materials for Vandyke Printing
2) Acid water-bath developer
5) Clearing agent (hypo-clear or equivalent).
Combine solutions A and B first, then add C while stirring. Store the solution in a brown glass bottle. The formula should be allowed to “ripen” for a day or two before use. The mixed solution keeps for several months. If the solution is kept for a very long time it will form a plating of silver on the inside of the glass storage bottle. The solution may still be used at this point but may not give optimum results in terms of good shadow density.
Development is two slightly acidic water baths, for two minutes in each, followed by a rinse. It is essential that the bath be slightly acidic to avoid staining from residual iron. The right pH is achieved by adding about a teaspoonful of citric acid per gallon of water.
The purpose of the development bath in water is to rid the print of the silver nitrate and iron that was not used in image formation during exposure. Silver nitrate is very soluble in water and after two minutes in the first bath the water should be very milky, indicating that most of the soluble silver nitrate has released from the paper and fallen into the water. A second water bath of two minutes should clear the paper of any remaining silver nitrate.
After development look carefully at the coated areas of the paper that were not exposed. If there is stain it is most likely due to the water being too alkaline. Unfortunately once the stain forms it is difficult or impossible remove it without also reducing the image.
In most cases two baths of two minutes each is sufficient to remove all of the residual silver nitrate. Longer times could also be used but whatever time you choose be consistent and always develop that way in order to obtain consistent results.
Rinse the print in running water for about a minute after development, then tone. In toning, the silver of the print is replaced with the more noble metal of the toner. It is recommended that the gold thiourea toner be used one-shot and discarded after use. Toning should be complete in about five minutes.
Add 50g sodium thiosulfate to 750ml water and stir. When the chemical has dissolved, add water to 1000ml. This makes a 5% sodium thiosulfate solution.
The clearing bath is a simple 1% sodium sulfite solution. To prepare, add 10g sodium sulfite to 1000ml water and stir until completely dissolved. This solution should be mixed just before use and discarded after clearing. Alternatively, commercial solutions such as Kodak Hypo Clear and Heico, diluted for clearing papers, can be used in place of the sodium sulfite solution.
Choosing a suitable paper is one of the most important factors in making a Vandyke print. The paper should give very good reflective Dmax (shadow density) and clear completely in two acid water baths of two minutes each. Most of the papers that work well with pt/pd printing will also work well for Vandyke. I have had very good success with gold toned Vandyke using Rising Stonhenge, Weston Parchement and Arches Platine as they give good Dmax and clear easily. With a good paper and optimum working conditions reflective DMax with gold toned Vandyke is quite high, up to log 1.60.
Many papers will give higher reflective Dmax if they are first pre-soaked in a weak (1% -5%) solution of citric acid or oxalic acid. Soak the paper for about two minutes, and then hang to dry. The paper can be used as soon as it is dry to the touch. Lanaquarelle is a beautiful very white paper that does not give good Dmax unless acid soaked but when soaked with a 1.5% solution of oxalic acid for a couple of minutes the reflective DMax is greatly improved. The same is true for a
number of other papers, including Fabriano Artistico and Arches Aquarelle. The acid solution should be fairly cool to avoid removing the internal sizing.
Printing with the Vandyke process requires a light source high in ultraviolet light, such as the sun, a bank of black-light fluorescent tubes, and commercial plate makers such as the Amergraph ULF-28 or the Nuarc 26-1Ks. For some design consideration please see my article on light sources for alternative printing.
There is no practical way to change the contrast of the Vandyke process so it is essential that the negative have the right contrast if the entire range of values on the negative from the shadows to the highlights is to be transferred to the print. For best results the optimum density range of negative used gold-toned Vandyke should be about log 1.8, though it may vary some with the light source.
Excellent digitally enlarged negatives can be prepared using any one of a number of methods, such as PDN or QTR. A great advantage of digital negatives over original camera negatives is that they all can be made to have the same printing characteristics in terms of density and contrast range, so that exposure time and contrast of the print can be consistent.
It is also possible to make good enlarged negatives for contact printing with traditional film by wet processing but unless one has great control of exposure and development these negatives will lack the consistency of density and contrast possible with digital negatives.
You will probably want to mask your negatives to eliminate brush strokes on the final print. My preferred method with digital negatives is to tape around the image area with red lithographer’s tape. You can also add a printing mask around the negative in Photoshop. For in-camera negatives cut a frame in Goldenrod paper slightly smaller than the printing area of the negative and tape the negative to the paper.
When making the exposure good contact between the negative and sensitized paper is critical for print sharpness. If there is not good contact the print will have an overall soft look with localized blurry areas. A contact printing frame works fine for prints up to about 11X14″ but for print sizes larger than 16X20″ a vacuum frame is recommended.
Processing can be carried out in separate trays for all of the solutions if you have the trays and space. However, it is also possible to carry out all processing in a single tray, with a short water rinse between each step.
Begin the coating operation by placing several sheets of newspaper on a flat, level surface, and then tape the paper you will be printing on to the newspaper, or attach it with pushpins. This will prevent the paper from moving around when you brush on the sensitizer. Measure out the required amount of sensitizer and gently pour it over the center of the paper. You will need about 2ml of sensitizing solution per 8X10 print, but some papers need more, others less, depending on sizing. Using a good quality artists’ brush like the Richeson, quickly spread the sensitizer over the printing area of the paper, stroking lightly across the paper from left to right, then from bottom to top, and finally on the diagonal. Continue with light brushing until there is no more pooling of the sensitizer, at which point stop. A coating rod could also be used and is often recommended as a method of using a minimum of coating solution. However, the experience of many alternative workers is that coating with a good synthetic brush like the Richeson does not waste more sensitizer than coating with a rod, and the brush allows double coating, which is not feasible with a rod.
Some papers work fine with just one coating but others should be coated twice for maximum reflective Dmax. When double coating I dilute the sensitizer 1:1 with a 5% solution of citric acid in order to acidify the paper slightly. Allow the first coat to dry about five minutes before applying the second coat.
Leave the paper taped to the paper for about five minutes after completion of coating, then hang to dry. Drying will take about 15-30 minutes, depending on temperature and humidity. A fan may be used to accelerate drying, but do not force dry with heat as this may cause fogging and reduce reflective DMax. The best procedure for obtaining consistent results is to time the drying time and always begin
exposure at the same time, which should be as soon as the paper is dry to the touch. If the paper is allowed to dry too long some loss of shadow density is likely.
Place the emulsion side of the negative in contact with the sensitized paper, with the base of the negative facing the light, and place the sandwich in a contact printing frame, vacuum frame, or between two heavy sheets of glass, and expose to UV light. If your negatives stick to the sensitized paper either dry the paper longer, or use a sheet of mylar between the negative and paper.
After exposure wash the print in two water baths for two minutes each at around 70º F. It is important that the water be slightly acidic. If very alkaline the print will develop a yellow stain, as the residual iron in the print will change to hydroxide. If the water is too acidic the silver metal will be reduced and shadow density (Dmax) will be weaker. The correct pH is achieved by adding about one teaspoonful of citric acid to a gallon of water.
When using the gold thiourea formula given in this article toning begins first in the highlights, proceeds to the mid-tones, and ends with the shadows. The print is fully toned when the shadows have taken on the color that is characteristic of the gold toner, a cool blue tone. Toning will normally be complete in about five minutes, but prints that have large shadow areas will take much longer to tone, and require more toner solution, than images that consist of mostly mid-tone and highlight detail. As the print is toned with gold it first becomes brownish-purple, then gradually the color will change to grayish-blue, which indicates toning to completion. With the toner used full strength, the print should be fully toned in about five minutes.
After toning rinse the print for about a minute in running water before fixing. The toning metal will replace a high percentage of the silver metal in the print, but not all of it, so a final toned with gold will be comprised of a very high percentage of gold metal and a smaller percentage of silver. Based on reduction tests I have carried out toning to completion appears to replace about 90% of the silver with gold metal.
Fix for three minutes in a 5% sodium thiosulfate solution. For maximum archival quality, use two separate fixing baths and fix for two minutes in each, with a rinse of about one minute in running water between the first and second bath. The second bath should always be fresh fixer.
The silver nitrate that is not used in image formation is highly soluble so in theory Vandyke prints need much less fixing than silver gelatin prints.
It is important to remember that a strong fixing solution, or fixing for too long, will bleach any silver metal that remains in the print after gold toning. This will reduce reflective DMax.
After fixing place the print in a 1% solution of sodium sulfite for two minutes. Kodak Hypo-Clear or other clearing agents can also be used. An alkaline clearing bath will leave the paper in an alkaline condition that is beneficial for long-term print stability.
Wash the print in running water for 5-10 minute. If a clearing bath is not used wash the print for 20 minutes in running water.
Hang the print to dry, or place on a drying rack.
Many people like the native color of Vandyke prints and do not tone them. In my opinion, this is a mistake, because toning provides much greater image permanence. Un-toned Vandyke images will eventually fade as it is virtually impossible to remove all residual ferrous iron from the paper, and if any at all remains it will eventually react with the silver and cause the image to fade.
Toning has other benefits, the major one being that a print that has been toned before fixing with gold, platinum or palladium will not fade in the fixing bath. The major reason for fading, or image recession during fixing, is bleaching of the silver. An image toned with gold will not fade or recede in fixing because most of the silver will have been replaced with gold.
Still another reason to tone is that it eliminates the effects of solarization. In heavily exposed areas there will be tone reversal in un-toned Vandyke’s that causes the shadow areas to get lighter. This look can be very unpleasant. Toning with gold counteracts tone reversal and restores normal tonal values in the heavily exposed shadow areas.
For greatest consistency the toner should be used as a one-shot solution, using the minimum amount of fresh solution possible, and then discarded after use. Using such small quantities of toning solution requires a flat tray with no ribs or grooves. With a flat bottom tray you will need approximately 30ml-40ml of solution to fully tone an 8X10″ print. Most of the toner is used in the shadows so images with large shadow areas will need more toner than those that have mostly mid-tone and highlight values.
The gold thiourea toner gives a very attractive purple/brown/blue tone and adds a slight increase in contrast. The toner keeps well and retains its working characteristics even after several months in storage.
Most alternative print makers today are using one of two main methods to produce digital negatives: Mark Nelson’s PDN system (http://www.precisiondigitalnegatives.com/), or Ron Reeder’s QTR system (http://www.ronreeder.com/). I used both systems to prepare digital negatives for making gold toned Vandyke prints and the results were equally good. The difference between the two systems is that with PDN linearization is done with an .acv curve that is applied in Photoshop whereas in QTR linearization is made at the printer driver level by controlling ink deposits. The latter method is in theory preferable because it eliminates the possibility of posterization which may result if applying a very abrupt .acv curve. In practice, however, I have never found this to be a problem with the use of .acv curves with PDN. Of the two systems PDN is easier to learn but QTR is potentially capable of greater control.
Bostick & Sullivan
PO box 16639
Santa Fe, NM 87592-6639
(Source for metal salts and other photo chemicals and supplies, including contact printing frames.)
Buffaloe, Ed. “Ferric-Silver Formulae.” http://unblinkingeye.com
Crawford, William. The Keepers of Light, Dobbs Ferry, New York: Morgan and Morgan, 1979. (See Kallitype, pp. 177-80)
Farber, Richard. Historic Photographic Processes, New York: Allworth Press, 1998. See Chapter Six, Kallitype, pp. 85-90.
James, Christopher. The Book of Alternative Phtogaphic Processes, Second Edition, Albany, NY: Delmar Cengage Learning, 2009. See Chapter 10, “The Van Dyke, B-V-D, & Brownprint,” pp. 216-235.
King, Sandy. “Ultraviolet Light Sources for Printing with Alternative Processes,
Stevens, Dick. Making Kallitypes: A Definitive Guide. Focal Press, Boston & London. Chapter 10, The Brown Print Kallitype, pp. 195-214.
Ware, Mike. “Preparations for Alternative Printing,” http://www.mikeware.co.uk
White, Wynn. “Vandyke Notes.” http://unblinkingeye.com
However, even as a tendency, pictorialism did not altogether disappear after the 1930s. Many pictorialists continued to be active in the 1940s and 1950s, although ignored by most members of the fine art establishment. David Brooks has commented on the irony of this situation: “In the last few years retrospective portfolios have been published in popular magazines; exhibits have been mounted in important museums and galleries; works have been auctioned by the most prestigious agents; and the Library of Congress has issued silver and lithographic prints all involving photographers like Arnold Genthe, Gertrude Kasebier, Robert Demachy, Baron A. DeMeyer, F. Holland Day and William Mortensen. In their day each of these artists (a number of others, as well) created photographs that were hung in exhibits, published in magazines and journals, and purchased by museums. They were equally celebrated in time as many well-known photographers are today. How incredulous then that not one of these photographers is listed in the most important history of photography used in this country’s schools and departments of photographic education. In fact, Pictorialism-the philosophy and technique represented by these and many more photographers-is given only a few scant pages of begrudgingly condescending recognition in these histories, along with the impression that the movement atrophied and slipped into oblivion well before many of the individuals named produced their most significant work.”17
In retrospect, most of the criticisms leveled against the aesthetics and techniques of pictorialism have proven to be either erroneous or irrelevant to contemporary standards of photography. Since the late 1970s there has been a significant revisionist tendency toward Pictorialism among historians. This has resulted in the publication of numerous studies that affirm the historical importance and validity of the techniques and aesthetics of the movement, initiated by Peter C. Bunnell’s seminal edition of essays, APhotographicVision,PictorialPhotography,1889-1923, first published in 1980.
The argument between the pictorialists and the purists was never really resolved, but Adams won a clear political victory. Straight photography became the accepted doctrine of the photographic art establishment, and the hated pictorialists were effectively banished from the civilized world of the new high priests. Nonetheless, all that was pictorial did not disappear with the dominance of straight photography. It is important to remember that the only major point of contention between the purists and the pictorialists was over process, not content or individual expression. Essentially, purists favored optical precision, and the use of purely photographic processes, while the pictorialists pursued their art through various manipulative printmaking processes. The landscape continued to be a major subject for purists, and the picturesque style continued to be dominant.
Edward Weston wrote: “I must conclude . . . that my ideals of pure photography . . . are much more difficult to live up to in the case of landscape workers-for the obvious reason that nature unadulterated and unimproved by man-is simply chaos. In fact, the camera proves that nature is crude and lacking in arrangement, and only possible when man isolates and selects from her.”15Moreover, the principles of pictorial composition continued in the documentary work of many photographers, including Dorothea Lange and Frank Eugene Smith, and even in Weston, who wrote: “A purist who is going to get any results has of necessity to know a great deal about composition. The manipulator can stick some clouds in a vacant sky, paint out a couple of houses, move the gate from the right to the left end of the wall, and remove the telephone wires to get his ‘composition’ right. But the Purist must do all this before he makes his exposure.”16
Although Pictorialism faded as a school by the end of World War I, pictorialism as a movement survived as an important photographic tendency until the 1930s, though with increasing opposition from advocates of straight photography, the so-called purists. The controversy between the pictorialists and the purists played itself out in a series of debates in the photography journals of the period, culminating in the 1930s in Camera Craft magazine with an exchange of articles between William Mortensen, the leading pictorialist of the day, and Ansel Adams, who defended the cause of straight photography.
The process of straight photography is very direct: be there, put the camera on a tripod, and photograph to reveal a maximum of information; then, process the image and make the final print to maximize tonal qualities and detail. The path of pure photography leads from the daguerreotype, through sharp-cutting collodion-based photography, to today’s glossy silver gelatin papers. Its practitioners through time have been Muybridge, O’Sullivan, Jackson, Ansel Adams, Weston, Strand, Atgeet, Renger Patsch, and numerous others. Though the ideological underpinnings of these photographers are different, all would share a common belief, best verbalized by Edward Weston and Paul Strand in the early 1920s: photography has certain basic qualities which, derived from its technical parameters, endow it with a specific mission and impose on it certain mechanical principles. Strand writes that there are laws to which we must ultimately conform or be destroyed, noting: “Photography, being one manifestation of life, is also subject to such laws. I mean by laws those forces which control the qualities of things, which make it impossible for an oak tree to bring forth chestnuts.”14
The roots of all pigment printing processes go back to a patent taken out in 1855 by the Frenchman Alphonse Poitevin. In his patent, Poitevin described processes very similar to direct carbon and gum bichromate, as well as collotype and the oil and bromoil processes. The modern history of pigment printing began in the early 1890s, during the period of photographic impressionism. In 1890 George Davidson won the highest award at the Annual Exhibition of the Photographic Society of London with a pinhole photograph entitled AnOldFarmstead(Davidson later changed the name to The Onion Field).10The award led to a schism in the Royal Photographic Society between proponents of the old school, who believed in sharp focus and hard-cutting lenses, and proponents of the new school, who admired atmospheric effect and diffusion of focus. The immediate result was the formation of the “Linked Ring,” a group of photographers of the new school committed to the principles of pictorialism.
Although the pinhole camera gave the soft images desired by pictorialists, the photographer still had limited control of the final image. The pictorialists believed that a photograph could be judged by the same standards used to judge other pictures.11There was a prevailing belief that only hand-crafted photographs could be considered works of art. The platinum process, used by Emerson, was very popular with the pictorialists, but the process did not lend itself to intervention on the part of the photographer. What was needed was a flexible printing process that would allow physical intervention by the photographer, and control of the final image. As a consequence many artist/photographers began experimenting with alternative printing processes in order to achieve the kind of effect they equated with art. This led to wide-spread popularization of the pigment processes. The pigment processes were called the “ennobling” processes because they permitted the exploration of creative ideas by hand manipulation.
The pictorial use of the pigment processes began in 1894 when Rouillé-Ladevèze demonstrated to members of the Société Française de Photographie prints made with the gum process. That same year he published a book of the process, Sépia-photo et sanguine-photo.12 Gum printing was further popularized by Robert Demachy and Alfred Maskell.13Gum bichromate immediately became the preferred printing technique of pictorialists, a position it retained until replaced by the more flexible oil process in the early 1900s. Oil printing was introduced as a photographic process by G. E. H. Rawlings in 1904 and within a very short period of time eclipsed gum in popularity. Bromoil, a sister process to oil, was introduced by C. Welborne Piper in 1907.
Contemporary sensibilities emphasize photography as a creative activity separate from the constraints of the medium, but this attitude is overly restrictive. It is not possible to look at photographs as though they were ends without means, for every photograph is “the culmination of a process in which the photographer makes decisions and discoveries within a technological framework.”5The end result of the process is photographic syntax, which is determined by the chemical, optical and mechanical relationships of the medium.6The final stage in this process is printmaking syntax, which determines the final, tangible form of the image. At this stage, all elements of the object are important, for the color, texture, tonal scale, and reflective qualities of the printing material have a very real impact on the way content is expressed.7
The syntax of printmaking has been of absolute importance at every stage in the evolution of photography, though often its importance has been ignored or misunderstood. At no time, however, has printmaking syntax been more important or impressive than during the period of salon photography, because photographs were printed for display in exhibitions, rather than for reproduction in books or magazines.8The Pictorialists, perhaps better than any other photographic movement, understood the importance of the “original” and as a consequence “expended an enormous amount of energy searching for ways to give their prints maximum surface beauty.”9
In the area of technique comma the use of alternative printing strategies that allowed manipulation of the final image was of the highest importance to the pictorialists. Technique is of paramount importance in the practice of photography, whether the final result is a record of the scene, or to make “art.” This has been true in all periods for pictorialists, who sought to convey an internal, subjective, vision, and for purists, whose goal was to discover, or merely record, reality. For the pictorialists, however, process was more important than verisimilar representation, and they often valued it for its own sake, because the most important consideration was not what the thing depicted, but how it filled the compositional space of the print. In essence, pictorialists were asserting the superiority of the conceptual ability of the photographer over the object and its place in the real world.4