Last week I participated in an Albumen and Salt Printing Workshop at the George Eastman House Museum in Rochester NY taught by Mark Osterman and ably assisted by Nick Brandreth. We learned how to make high quality handmade prints using glass plate negatives and plain paper sensitized with a silver nitrate solution. These historic processes date back to the very early days of photography in the mid 19th century.
For albumen printing we cracked 5 dozen eggs to separate out the whites, mixed in ammonium chloride and beat until stiff – just like making a meringue except for a slightly different recipe. After the egg whites settled back to liquid form we coated paper and after it dried we sensitized with silver nitrate. Then we exposed the paper using glass plate negatives, and then processed with gold chloride and fixed the prints before washing and drying.
We also learned how to make salted paper prints, a similar process but without the egg whites.
Finally we waxed the salt prints with bees wax and oil of lavender.
The other students were Eric Baillies and Maria Santo. We also spent time looking at the extraordinary examples of albumen and salt prints in the Eastman House archives. Including seeing some Hill & Adamson daguerreotypes in the conservation lab.
It was a great week learning and refining my skills, studying the history of photography and making friends.