The Society of Secretive Squirrels

Secretive and Squirrely.

Archive for the ‘physautotype’ Category

still alive, still making stuff.

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I’ve begun working as a technician for an art school here in New Zealand – I’m a photo technician, though ironically what I do in that role is basically all digital, video, database, and even computer programming. Pretty funny given that my specialty dates back to about the time that people were astonished by electricity.

This is from a quickie show that I was a part of;

The big print in strips is a shot I took with a rebuilt digital camera a few years (2008) back, and printed out with a receipt docket printer – suffice to say that the printer makers never planned for this – all told it’s about 150+ meters of printing.

The small prints are half plate physautotypes from the same series of images.

I can finally say that I have something of a handle on the physautotype process, it’s only taken five years for me to basically understand what’s at play there. I am not sure that I’ll ever reach the point of completely controlling it, let alone mastering it. That said, I’m starting to work on larger prints. There is no other process which looks like it – it has a translucent irridescence which I suppose looks like the bastard child of a dageurrotype and an ambrotype.

In other news, I now have a studio set up, and am looking forward to summer when I’ll be getting a lot more of my own work done.

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October 24, 2016 at 9:13 am


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I’ve been playing a fair bit recently with different ideas and antique processes. In large part because I’ve no access to running water in my current studio space, thus my re-visiting physautotype. It’s a nice process for me in that it doesn’t require water at all, and it’s really not terribly sensitive to light (I also have no capacity to black out my space during the day, closing the curtains and working quickly is sufficient ).


This was a bad pour, the imafe is from a lith negative I had lying about. It was very thin, it seems that physautotype likes thin negs.


This is from my digital infrared series, I finally found an output from these files that I like.


This was a test exposure, it gives you a decent idea of what the plate looks like without any special holder. There’s a lot of detail there when it’s displayed correctly.

So the next step is re-jigging my negatives to be a bit thinner, which should preserve the shadow detail.

I’ve also been playing with an idea about dageurrotypes.IMG_20160322_155900

This is as far as I’ve gotten, not so special really. But in this case I’m trying to use cheap silver plated flatware and I’m using iodophor steriliser with a wet treatment to create the sensitive plate, so even this level of success is pretty surprising.

It’s not something I expect to work out very quickly, but it is fairly cheap to do.


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March 22, 2016 at 3:21 am

Physautotype… again.

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So I’ve started working with physautotype again. right now I’m gettting some decent results, not quite perfect, but it’s starting to happen.


These are made with one gram of violin rosin which is crushed to powder, then heated till liquid, cooled, crushed to powder again and added to 100ml of ethanol alcohol. (I’m using purple meths, seems to work fine).

This solution is put to the glass plate with a syringe (the glass plate held level on the fingertips of the opposite hand), the solution is swished around till it covers the whole glass plate, then swished around some more before it’s poured off the corner.

After the plate is poured off and stops dripping I turn the plate by 90 degrees so the next corner is down (the plate being held vertically at this point) and I use a paper towel to mop the bottom two edges of the plate till no more solution beads at the edge (note; the edge, not the surface of the plate).

Soon after this the plate will pass from transparent to a light frosted look, when this light frost covers the whole plate (it can be sped a little by fanning or lightly blowing on the plate) the plate is put down and over the next few minutes a secondary frost will occur. If the coating is uneven or the glass wasnt clean it will be obvious.

I’m using overhead transparencies for the negative (it’s direct positive, so the negative is actually a positive), which seems to work, though I still have a little work to do there, I give it three hours under a nail polish setter and then develop using mineral turpentine fumes.

The mineral turps fumes incidentally don’t need to be concentrated, I put a small splash on some black card in a pyrex dish and that’s enough to last a few days, if you can smell it then it’s probably strong enough.

Then leave it somewhere that it can air and get some sun, and it’s fixed. hold in front of a black surface and the image will show up nicely.

More later…

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March 21, 2016 at 7:19 am

Physautotype – redux

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I finally got the process as far as this, it’s about as far as I’m going to take it for now.


This is a contact print from a lith negative. I coated both sides of a glass plate (gives a nice three dimensional effect) in a solution of violin rosin in ethyl alcohol (0.5g in 100ml) and then contact printed it for about three days exposure to blue sky on a window sill (this is not instant photography – If exposed to direct sunlight it’d be far faster), then developed it by exposing it to the fumes of mineral turps from about 1cm away on a flat plate. A separate development for each side.

This is the process that Niepce referred to briefly in one of his letters to Dageurre in the 1820’s – he said that printed on glass it makes a pleasing image when viewed in front of a dark surface. This (mine) is sandwiched in a black perspex case with a glass cover to protect it. I offered this to Geoffery Batchen, but he never responded, so it’s going in a box I guess.

I’m not taking this experiment any further for the forseable future, I’m thinking of a project involving travel, that and paying down a 78 thousand dollar student loan 😛

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June 10, 2012 at 2:40 am


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Well, I investigated the idea that I thought would allow me to print them faster – doesn’t work sadly 😛

The idea was sensitizing the solution with methylene blue dye – Only I think I may have used a bit much as it pooled quite drastically, and frankly it cut the sensitivity away to nearly nothing, so I may be on to something with the idea of spectral sensitizing, just I have it backwards or something. *shrug*

That’s my pouring bench, my uber high tech coating method is to put about 1/6th tsp of solution in a spoon and then dump it in the middle of a clean plate… Like so (after 30 sec or so of spreading out).

I was double coating those in the hope it would make a difference – it didn’t. With a clean glass plate the solution will spread itself out by capillary action or something – over a minute or two it basically covers the plate on it’s own – this makes for a slightly thicker coat at the center, but unless you’re dopey enough to add dye to it it shouldn’t matter.

Some coated plates;

So in essence, the blue dye offers no advantage, coats really badly, slows down the print time (1/2 a day out to 2 1/2 days), and to boot, it makes a bloody awful mess when (not if) it gets spilled.

I guess it eliminates a variable – Yay me!

This is the closest that i got to a print;

It’s from a negative, so is negative, and it’s on black perspex – a substrate which, excitingly enough, I have discovered does not work at all well with this process (it coats very unevenly) – though it is good for backing coated glass plates – In the following I’ve bumped the levels and suchlike a bit.

I can make stuff out cos I know what the neg was – a view from my atillier window amusingly enough – there’s a square white sign in the foreground, some stairs about 1/3rd of the way up towards the right – and at the same level on the left a rounded window on the building facing me – very bloody hard to photograph.

So for now, I’ll go back to 1 & 2% solutions of rosin in ethyl alcohol on chemically cleaned glass plates, cos I’m reasonably sure that works.

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June 12, 2011 at 9:51 am


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Some things I’ve tried – first up an orotone – which is a fancy term for painting the back of a positive gold (you’re supposed to use a ‘particular’ paint, but whatev’s, I just used oil paint)

A black print (yup, I made that name up) – sorta like an ambrotype, but not like an ambrotype at all (silver gelatine liquid emulsion based) – I’m handing in one of these this week – it’s washing as I type.

And Physautotypes – I’ve had three crack at it so far, the first was a total failure;

Yup, a blank piece of glass (reflecting my camera strap and my black top).

The second I got a line;

Which at least proved that it’s light sensitive.

The third I got a rhinoceroses bottom;

I messed up the development a bit, but it’s proof of concept – violin rosin and meths with mineral turps as a developer – a la Niepce. I’ve figured out a couple of things to improve the print – but learning to coat the stuff onto glass is top of the list – not easy compared to gelatin, or even collodion.

I have a masters crit Thursday, so after that I’m looking forward to doing some more of them, fun!

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April 18, 2011 at 9:52 am