its been about 30 years since i dabbled in the dark arts of making a photographic emulsion using silver. i make cyanotype-stuff all the time but that is child’s play by comparison. with cyanotypes you use 2 chemicals and coat a piece of paper with them with silver emulsion, it is a little more involved, not by much though. as a cheese eating college student i went to the salvation army / good will ( it was a long time ago i can’t remember which ) and i bought some pots and pans and glass ball jars then i mailed away for silver nitrate and some potassium bromide and probably potassium iodide. not sure where, but someone pointed me in the right direction … and followed a recipe that was in the back of an olde photography handbook i got at a book store. the book was from around 1904 and it had old ads, recipes and other fun stuff it was an “annual” .. anyways, i mixed up an emulsion or 2 but they never really worked very well. while i took chemistry classes in high school and wasn’t afraid to do new things, i just didn’t know what i was doing enough to get anything worthwhile so i abandoned that and started using bottled mulsion, mainly liquid light by rockland colloid. it worked and i continued to use it for decades off and on— even a few weeks ago i used some and wrote about it here … there is a website called the light farm ( http://www/thelightfarm.com ) and for years now i have gone there are read and marvelled at the great stuff there. i read with the intent of making emulsion again but seeing i had armloads of film and bottled emulsions handy i kept making emulsion at an arms distance, something that i would eventually fall back into but not yet … now that i have almost run out of materials ( film ) i don’t feel guilty making emulsion. anywyas, the person who runs the light farm, denise ross, is a great mixologist and explainer of emulsions, and she has written a book on how anyone can do it, recipies, techniques, you name it, its in there. http://www.blurb.com/books/6465389-the-light-farm i got my copy maybe a month ago, and i have been poking around, reading, learning .. and going to the website and reading, poking around and learning. so today, i decided to step up. what i did was morphed 2 recipes together and made my own. i like the idea of using sea water ( live near the ocean ) so i made my own ( using baline salt ) and ideas from a light farm contributer named chris patten: http://thelightfarm.com/Map/DryPlate/Patton/DryPlatePart.htm
… and while i like the idea of an emulsion that is slow and sweet, i decided to add some potassium bromide to it, just cause .. well im not sure why i did it, i just did and used a few ideas from a light farm contributor kevin klein: http://www.thelightfarm.com/Map/DryPlate/Recipes2/DryPlatePart3.htm
i mixed 60cc of warm water with 10 g of knox gelatin (i didn’t have photography grade emulsion so i used what i had handy) i also added 10 g of the potassium bromide and 2 g of salt. i mixed and mixed and used a water bath and a hot plate ( used a ball jar to put the stuff in ) and when it was mixed i left it in the water to stay liquid and not set. then covered from head to toe with an apron and EYE PROTECTION GOGGLES i mixed 10g of silver nitrate into another 60cc of warmish water. eye protection you might ask, why ? well, a splash of silver nitrate in your eyes will BLIND YOU , so if you do this PLEASE BE SMART AND WEAR PROTECTION ! silver nitrate will also stain your skin black, and clothes too, so BE CAREFUL, NOT FOOLISH. once the silver nitrate mixture was dissolved, i turned on the red light, took the gelatin mixture out of the big pot and slowly added the silver nitrate to it. too fast is bad, and too slow is bad. i probably mixed it in too fast because it is supposed to be mixed in a few cc/ min, so it takes about 5-10 mins, i didnt’ just dump it in there, but i didn’t do it extremely slow either. poured a little in, mixed like mad, poured a little more in mixed like mad .. until i had none left.
the ball jar is now yellowish white with emulsion but it isnt’ done yet. its in one of those canisters with a rubber seal sitting on my concrete floor until it sets up. when that happens i will pull it out of the ball jar it is in, i’ll can cut it up in pices … it will go in cheese cloth and i will rinse it 3-4 times in cold tap water. then i’ll heat it up again into a blob and put it someplace cool and dark until i cut a piece off of it, warm it up, put it on paper or glass and hopefully make a photograph with it ! we live in a new golden age of photography. digital cameras have made it great for people to make wonderful photographs, and silver based/ chemical based photography is back to the way it was 150 years ago. you can’t get the chemicals at the local pharmacy but they are a mouse click away, and unlike my first attempts in making photo emulsion 30 years ago … the internet has made it very easy to find people who can help you do it right …
well, its still sitting there getting cold. when its ready to use i’ll post something maybe something fun, maybe an utter failure ! its up to the fate sisters now ..