Reflections on glass

Having exposed the last of my silver emulsion glass plates, it’s time to reflect on what’s been learned and what comes next …

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On a visit to New Lanark World Heritage Village at the weekend, I exposed the last of the 5×4 SE1 emulsion dry glass plates I made a couple of months ago. The final plates of the batch have been stored in an opaque black plastic bag, separated with baking paper since the hand-poured emulsion was dried so I was interested to see how they would perform after the period of storage.

I think they performed rather well. While I accept it is subjective I rather like the marks left by the baking paper on the surface of the gelatin emulsion which appears to have ‘sweated’ a little during storage, although I would like to work out how to avoid them if I could!

New Lanark: Falls of Clyde
Falls of Clyde – 1
New Lanark: Falls of Clyde
Falls of Clyde – 2

 

New Lanark: Mill Number Three
Mill Number Three

 

New Lanark: Caithness Row
Caithness Row
New Lanark: Owen's House, New Buildings and The Bell Tower
Robert Owen’s House and The Bell Tower
New Lanark
New Lanark

So with my supply of plates now exhausted I have to make some decisions what to do next. Being involved in the process from preparation of the glass through pouring the emulsion to exposing and developing the plates has been insightful and enjoyable. I’ve exposed them quite successfully in The Intrepid large format field camera and in home made pinhole cameras.

There’s some room for improvement in the adhesion of the emulsion to the glass. Some of my plates show signs of frilling around the edges so for any future batch I’d want to pay particular attention to glass cleaning and the proportions of gelatin and hardener in the subbing solution.

So far, all that I have done with the plates has been to scan them as digital files, or to contact print them. As I have no other means at present to make larger darkroom prints I rather think that I would like to prepare for exposure in pinhole cameras, a batch of larger plates that could be contact printed.

There’s a whole range of alternative print processes that I could experiment with: Salt printing, cyanotypes, van dyke browns and so on. I feel that the unique character given by the inevitable imperfections of hand-poured plates would blend well with the serendipitous nature of pinhole images and plates up to about 10″x8″ would be good for contact printing. Maybe pinhole plates are the way forward, keeping The Intrepid for regular sheet film exposed through a lens.

I’ll have some time to think about that though as I have other things coming up that need my attention: A talk and presentation about pinhole characteristics to the Democratic Camera Club in October and prints to prepare for submission to an exhibition in December. More on these to follow!

Author: Donald Tainsh

A lifelong explorer of photography

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