Platinum and Palladium Printing

Tennis Courts, Gregynog, Wales


Time magazine had an obituary for Alec Guinness, which said: “In an era when grossness is king, subtlety needs to be honored.”

The root of subtle is French for finely woven. It is defined as: perceptive, refined, or having been marked by a keen insight and ability to penetrate deeply and thoroughly. Highly skillful. Expert (as in craftsman). Other synonyms are: discriminating, astute, indirect and sophisticated. They may also be: abstruse, suggestive and elusive. It also can be: difficult to understand and distinguish.

 Are these not the attributes of a good photograph: one that takes a bit of sensitivity and effort on the part of the viewer to be understood.

Dick Arentz 2004

The Platinum Printing Process was developed in England during the nineteenth century. A suitable 100% cotton rag paper is hand coated with a solution containing platinum and/or palladium salts and an iron oxalate sensitizer. After drying the coated paper in heated air, it is exposed with a photographic negative to intense ultraviolet light, which causes a reduction of the platinum or palladium salts to pure metal. The light required is approximately one million times that needed for traditional black and white or color photography. This intensity of light cannot be projected through an enlarger. The negative must be placed directly on to the paper as a contact print. Therefore, the size of the printed image is determined by the size or format of the negative. After clearing to remove the remaining salts, the final print consists of pure platinum (Pt) and palladium (Pd) metallic fragments laid on to and embedded within the paper. The process used today is virtually unchanged from that first patented in 1873.

Because the print was determined by the negative size, the most common method was to use a camera, which produced a negative the size of the final print. This was used most frequently throughout the history of platinum/palladium print. I use view cameras of various sizes from 1969 to 2004.

Reproductions of selected prints can be found in the Gallery Archives section of this site. For the digital Negative, you can also go to Recent Works section.

In 2004, I published the second edition of Platinum & Palladium Printing. Since then, the making of digitally-generated negatives for Pt/Pd printing has gained in popularity. Subsequently, I have also published PDF editions of an Addendum covering these techniques. I have recently revised and expanded Addendum 2021 to 85 pages.



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Dick Arentz
1640 N. Spyglass Way
Flagstaff, AZ 86004-7382

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Dick Arentz is a professional photographer, and retired University professor, who specializes in the platinum and palladium printing process. He has conducted over forty platinum printing workshops and has had over seventy one-man exhibits. His work is represented in public and private collections, including the New York and San Francisco Museums of Modern Art.

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