I recently ran a salt printing workshop at the Analogue Laboratory in Adelaide with four enthusiastic artists curious about the process.
The salt print is well known for its beautiful warm brown tones and for having a wider tonal range than all other photographic printing processes due to the inherent self-masking ability that occurs during exposure. The workshop showed participants how to create a salt print and some of the different ways the colour and tone can be altered. It wasn’t long before salt print fever took hold and there was a flurry of coating, exposing (the paper!) and tray agitation.
The washing stages (particularly the final one) are an important aspect in processing a salt print. Washing removes excess silver nitrate, unexposed silver chloride and fixer that can cling to the paper fibres. Insufficient washing is one of the main causes of staining in salt prints (and albumen). Staining can happen gradually. There would be nothing more distressing then seeing your print on someone’s wall six months down the track with a stain like this one below.
A big round of applause to the gang! They did a great job with their first salt prints. Here's some examples of their work.
Many thanks to my mentor, Ellie Young at Gold Street Studios, and her fabulous research into the salt print. The formulas and processes I used in the workshop were adapted from Ellie’s book The Salt Print Manual.
''William Henry Fox Talbot’s salted paper was the first photographic negative to positive silver imaging process in 1834. The ratio between salt and silver nitrate was critical to this success. Achieving a permanent image proved an issue for Talbot until 1839 when, with the help of Sir John Herschel, the first salt print image was permanently ‘fixed’ onto paper.''