The Photograph Considered number thirty four  – Ellie Young

The Photograph Considered number thirty four – Ellie Young

Dandelion orotone photograph.

This photograph is an orotone. This is an amazing process where this carbon transfer is on the face of the glass and the gold is on the reverse.

The distance of 2.5 mm between the face of the image and the base gives an illusion of depth and movement as you walk past the images. It is this one of the unique phenomena’s that attracts me to the process.

Traditional orotone photographs are created by printing from a negative to create a positive on a glass plate precoated with a silver gelatin emulsion or carbon transfer process. Following exposure and development, the back of the plate is coated with gold-coloured pigment creating a gold-toned image.  

The making of orotone prints was contemporary art in the early twentieth century. Many of the early orotones were made by the Seattle photographer Edward Curtis. He produced hundreds of orotone photographs of Native Americans during his career. Curtis developed the “Curt-Tone“, using techniques which he claimed were superior.

My passion for carbon covers a wide range of techniques: Opalotypes (printing on white opal glass), four colour carbon transfers on glass metal and paper, mono carbons on glass metal and paper. The process allows any choice of colour and a permanence not seen in many photographic processes. 

The other compelling attraction is the surface relief that provides a visual depth to the photograph. It is straight line in its tonal values and can be adapted to most negative types, digital and analogue.

Although I usually photograph on film for mono reproduction, mostly on 8 x 10 on my Sinar. I also enjoy using my quirky Pentacon 6. (6×6 roll film).

For this 16 by 20 inches image I used a macro set up. The magnification is five times life size using an 810 Nikon with Stackshot – automated macro rail for focus stacking to maximize depth of field. I do use an analogue scanning stage  with 8 x 10 film. The lens was Nikkor 120mm macro. The negative was made on inkjet film using an P800 Epson printer. It is a contact printing process so the negative is the size of the final photograph. Although time consuming it is not an expensive process to practice. This image is part of the “Blooms on Glass and Gold” series. 

Ellie’s studio (gold street studios established in 1999) provides a resource centre for photographic image makers, attracting local and international participants to learn the art, craft and science of traditional, hand made photographic processes from professional instructors. Ellie herself instructs in a number of alternative processes, including the orotones, in her studios and in colleges and institutes around Australia and in China.

Gold Street Studio’s workshop space.
Gold Street Studio’s darkroom.
Gold Street Studio’s gallery.

In 2000 Ellie attained the National Gallery of Victoria Trustee Award 2000 for her work in Gum Bichromate printing. After some years of research, her Salt Printing Manual was published in 2011. She constantly exhibits her work locally, nationally and internationally.

Ellie Young with 8×10 camera. 2011. Photograph by David Tatnall.
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Ellie Young owns and runs Gold Street Studio & Gallery.

There is 1 comment for this article
  1. Danielle at 6:37 am

    This image is beautiful and must be viewed in person to give it true justice. The three dimensionality has to be seen to be believed. It literally leaps off the glass.

    Ellie a truly beautiful work, it makes me feel like I could pluck the daisy right out of the image.

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