Shoot: The Albumen session (series 1)

Shoot: The Albumen session (series 1)

I’ve been planning this session for a few months, intending to shoot an entire set specifically for Albumen printing. There could only be one model for this special project: the incomparable Jessica Scarlett, so I was delighted when she agreed to work with me again. I had a number of issues to overcome. Firstly, perfecting the Albumen printing technique which has given me more trouble than any other Alt Process (and I’ve done them all bar Platinum); secondly exposing and processing the negatives specifically for contact printing on Albumen paper; and thirdly (in the middle of Winter) getting the lighting right to replicate the look of a large north-facing daylight studio of the type used in the Victorian era.

I practiced the Albumen shooting, processing and printing on a series of tongue-in-cheek still life images (series: still life with shoe) which I’ve put in my new Still Life gallery (although not Albumen versions as I decided I preferred them with a Lith look). For the lighting I simply used a large bounced light head on. Everything was shot on a 5×4 Speed Graphic with 127mm Ektar lens. Exposure time for the prints was eight to eight and a half minutes using my home-made UV printing light.

Having been through the whole process, I can see why the Victorian model-photographers issued images in series of eight. It took me an hour and a half to shoot 20 frames and as I was doubling up on most of the shots to give a choice of takes, I ended up with only 12 different poses. Of those I chose eight to print and the results are below.

In the end, the hardest thing turned out to be scanning the prints for upload. The scanner accentuates the texture of the paper which, being hot press, is actually smooth to the naked eye and turned the sepia tones grey. I had to create a custom curve for the scanner and tweak further in Lightroom to get the images anything close to what they actually look like.

Still, I learned lots going through the whole process. I like the stillness of the images, to me there is something meditative about them. Looking forward to trying another series.