Paper Review Christina Z. Anderson
New Kid on the Block—Hahnemühle Platinum Rag
by Christina Z. Anderson
For over nine months I have been in conversation with Carol Boss of Hahnemühle, under a nondisclosure agreement, beta testing a new platinum paper along with a number of other alt printers (we did not share information with each other so we would not skew the results).
For those of us who print alternative processes we know that there are a lot of papers that are alkaline-buffered and therefore unsuitable for certain alternative processes unless pre-acidified, which adds an extra PITA step. For platinum, the mainstay papers for most of us have been Arches Platine and Bergger Cot 320. This new paper has now trumped those two papers as my platinum paper of choice. I am not employed by Hahnemühle nor do I stand to gain $$ or paper from them, and this is probably not good news for me since I have a stockpile of both Platine and Bergger!
The paper is 100% cotton, internally sized, no buffering, no optical brighteners, 300 gsm, pH-neutral. Even though called natural white, it is ever so slightly whiter than Arches Platine. It is also ever so slightly faster than Platine by 1/3 stop in my practice. I could not use the same printing time nor the same Platine curve for this paper so I recalibrated both.
The paper prints deep charcoal blacks even with hot potassium oxalate developer which is as warm as it gets (I settled on room temp pot ox in the long run), clears easily of all iron salts, and works perfectly under lower humidity conditions such as those present in Montana. Even under 20-25% humidity I experienced no bleeding of the shadows into the highlights, which is a common problem with Platine in my practice. And even with this low humidity I am getting an 8 stop tonal range from dmax to dmin!
The paper is smooth, crisp, firm, not very absorbent, and still prints beautiful, rich charcoal brown/black with 20% less solution than 1 drop per 2 sq. in., my standard amount. In other words, an 8×10 which normally takes a total drop count of 40 drops now will take 32. This may not seem like a big deal, but a 16×20 is 4x that drop count and that is when savings will occur. And no bronzing occurred with less solution and less humidity (I did drastically reduce the drop count to as low as 57% of my usual amount of coating; not a good thing).
Both back and front print beautifully and similarly, therefore another savings in case you screw up a print on one side. As users of Platine know, one side is more pebbly surfaced. In fact, I have a hard time differentiating between the two sides of this Hahnemühle Platinum Rag.
I tested gum over platinum with no sizing, cyanotype over platinum, cyanotype alone, watercolor over platinum, and the paper stood up perfectly through several wet and dry cycles. I have not yet tested tricolor gum and six or more wet/dry cycles to see if it outperforms Fabriano Artistico in that regard, which has always been my paper of choice for gum bichromate in both price point and sturdiness.
Cyanotype performs beautifully on Hahnemühle Platinum Rag, producing a gorgeous rich, deep blue. Unfortunately I ran out of paper before I could test Vandyke brown, which is a paper-picky process for me in my dry climate conditions.
To reiterate my testing procedure for those interested:
I tested the paper under “student” conditions: what a student would normally do who is just learning the process. E.g. I did not prehumidify my room or the paper. This is less than ideal circumstances with humidity in my dim-room 22-25% only (winter in Montana) unlike the 50% and above platinum prefers. This will tend to lead to blown out highlights, a tendency for the darkest areas to bleed in the developer, and bronzing. None of these was a problem.
I coated in regular incandescent room light, using a 6/9/1 drop count formula: 6 drops of palladium, 9 drops ferric oxalate,1 drop NA2 contrast agent. Normally this is a 661 formula but the drops of ferric oxalate are actually smaller in diameter so I have increased to match the palladium when using the drop count method of measuring. When measuring by the ml this is not necessary.
I let the paper dry for 20 minutes before exposing under UVBL.
I exposed a Baseline Printing Time (BPT) for 15 minutes with a 31-step Stouffer’s wedge. I derived a Standard Printing Time (SPT) of 10 minutes.
I used two developers, ammonium citrate room temp and hot; potassium oxalate room temp and hot. It didn’t make an appreciable enough difference with heating the developer so I finished all testing with room temperature potassium oxalate, my favorite developer. Development in either developer was 5 minutes.
I cleared in di-EDTA for the first and tetra-EDTA/sodium sulfite for the second (first bath is acid; second and third alkaline). The paper cleared of yellow almost immediately in the first bath, unlike Platine which is a hard paper to clear of the yellow iron salts. I rinsed for 20 minutes.
I created a digital negative of iterations of the same image, the top with my normal platinum curve for Platine and then increasingly contrasty curves on down to no curve at all. I ended up calibrating a new set of curves with the Precision Digital Negatives CCIII system and found with that system that a more contrasty curve than a straight line linearization was my curve of choice.
Sizes offered will be 22×30, 20×24, 11×15, 8×10, 8.5×11, come March. I know that Freestyle Photo and Bostick-Sullivan will both carry it along with other retailers. My guess is there will be a run on the paper so watch for it! When a company like Hahnemühle puts their money behind a platinum paper, this is yet another happy indication of the growing alternative process market and I thank Carol Boss for moving this project forward tirelessly!
About Christina Z. Anderson
Christina Z. Anderson’s work focuses on the cultural and spiritual landscape expressed in 19th century techniques, primarily gum and casein bichromate. Her work has shown nationally and internationally in 100 shows and 40 publications. She has authored several books, two of which—The Experimental Photography Workbook and Gum Printing and Other Amazing Contact Printing Processes—have sold worldwide in 40 countries. She is co-author of Handcrafted: The Art and Practice of the Handmade Print (2014, Wang, Jianming, King, Chinese text only), now in its third publication. Gum Printing, A Step by Step Manual Highlighting Artists and Their Creative Practice is scheduled for 2016 publication by Focal Press/Routledge. Anderson is Associate Professor of Photography at Montana State University, Bozeman.
Thank you Christina.
To learn more about Christina please visit her site at Christina Z. Anderson.