DIY: Argyrotype




3 minutes reading

Argyrotype ingredients 

• 5 sheets of InkJet  transparencies 8x10” • 5 sheets of quality paper 8x10” • bottle of silver-based solution • 140 grams sodium thiosulphate • rubber gloves  • syringe for applying  solution  • 2 glass rods to spread solution onto the paper • expose to daylight or UV lamp 

You can make prints at home using refined printing processes. For instance, the techniques available are Bromoil, Cyanotype, Gum Bichromate, Salt Printing and Argyrotype. I’ll be using the latter to print brown, sepia-coloured pictures. 

I’ve printed a number of negatives and coated a number of sheets of paper with two layers of solution. The solution can be applied in several ways. One of them is with a goat-hair brush, but it can also be done with glass rods. The syringe draws up the right amount of solution from the bottle so that it can subsequently be squirted onto the paper. After that, the solution is rolled evenly onto the entire surface of the sheet with the glass rod. 

I place the negative onto the paper and expose it to daylight. No direct sunlight. A glass plate keeps everything in place. The instructions advise an exposure time of nine minutes in sunlight. I wonder whether they mean daylight or direct sunlight? I decide on a somewhat longer exposure time. 

Doubts. Did I expose long enough? I still can’t see much from above. The solution has started to turn brownish in some spots. 

Exposure time has now been long enough. I take the exposed sheet back to the darkroom. First I have to wash for five minutes, followed by three minutes with constant agitation in  bath containing 40 grams of sodium thiosulphate, the so-called citric acid bath. I soon realize that I did not expose long enough... The portrait is very light and vague. 

On to the next sheet. This time I’ll only wash once the sheet is coloured a deep brown. Meanwhile I coat more sheets with solution. 

I now start with washing and fixing. This one is better than the first one as far as exposure is concerned, but the print is too soft for my taste. Moreover, there are spots and some unevenness which I can’t explain. 

So let’s try another negative. I find out that the paper supplied in the kit is narrower than the 8x10” transparency sheets...(F-word). The two already made negatives are therefore too wide for the paper. I make a new negative.Exposure of one hour doesn’t work either. The central sections are good, but the black ones are not ‘black’ and lack contrast. Perhaps another negative with better contrast? 

This time the picture is better. Yet I’m not really satisfied. Is it impossible to get black with that solution? Perhaps the stuff is too old? Been on the shelf for too many years? I expose a new sheet. A sheet that I covered with one layer of solution this morning. It seems as if it gets brown less quickly. 

Slowly the print is taking on a deep dark colour. A few minutes, and then washing and fixing. (To tell you the truth, I’m slowly getting fed up with this.) 

Since the intensity of the light is somewhat diminishing, I know have a reasonably well-exposed print. Finally something that looks decent! The range of colours could be better, but – oh well. 

I’ve tried to make seven prints, using three different negatives. I consider none of the prints good enough for my portfolio. Argyrotype by Fotospeed can be ordered on the internet for about E 80.