More Fun with Ferric Silver: Four Argyrotypes

And what, you rightly ask, is an argyrotype? Well… SOOOO glad you asked! I’ll save you the trouble of running to Wikipedia and just quote them here:

Argyrotype is an iron-based silver printing process that produces brown images on plain paper. It is an alternative process derived from the argentotype, kallitype, and Van Dyke processes of the 19th century, but has greater simplicity, improved image stability, and longer sensitizer shelf-life.[1] It was developed by Mike Ware.[2]

While this process may not have the permanence of other processes such as platinum or palladium printing, it is much less expensive and more user friendly. The core resource used is silver sulphamate (NH2SO3Ag) which can be prepared on site from sulphamic acid.[2] The sensitizer used is very slow, so printing must be by contact with a large format negative, using an ultraviolet lamp or sunlight.

As with most alternative processes there is room for manipulating the process to achieve different effects, and since the image is produced on plain paper many drawing or print making processes can be combined with the original image.

In other words, it is a process for printing images using iron-silver salts. Like so many alternative/historical photographic processes, the light-sensitive liquid is applied to paper, dried, and exposed to some kind of image matrix. This can be objects, drawings, traditional “negatives/positives”, or a mix of any and/or all of these. That latter is what I’ve been exploring.


Four argyrotypes, hot gold-toned, two on Hahnemühle Platinum Rag postcard, one on Silberburg 140 g/m handmade watercolor paper, one on Terschelling 300 g/m watercolor postcard paper. Photogenic (manually produced), digitally-produced negatives, and hybrid (combined digital and manual) negatives. Digital output from laser printer. “Hot gold toning” refers to using a gold toner that has been heated warmer than the usual working temperatures, in this case I warm the toner to 35°C. The toning is often done to lend greater permanence to the image by replacing silver particles with gold particles. This toning is a common practice with kallitypes and includes toning with platinum and palladium salt solutions.

I’m fascinated by how this particular process is responding to the drawn lines on the laser printer output, as compared to the kallitypes. Even under magnification, the lines resemble traditional intaglio lines, but without the impression that comes from running the plate through the press. This is especially obvious in the first and third images below.

And many thanks to Carol Boss HahnemühleMike Ware, and Wolfgang Moersch for resources and inspiration. And there are not enough words to describe my inspiration and loving support from the woman who, through her own work with this process, inspired me to actually give it a try myself: Annemarie Borg.


Silberburg 140 g/m handmade watercolor paper. Yes, I’m making fun of Kodak safety Film… hand “drawing” on laser printer transparency material.


Terschelling 300 g/m watercolor postcard paper. This is best described as being a digital “collage” as part of the image is from a digital photograph (JPG) and the other is from a “drawing”  (using ProCreate on an iPad), combined in Photoshop and printed on laser printer transparency.


Another photogenic drawing, this time printed on Hahnemühle Platinum Rag postcard (an aside: Hahnemühle Platinum Rag is an extremely dependable, consistent paper for doing alt-hist processes… yes, I am shamelessly endorsing them). Those spots are not stains, such as we see in kallitypes due to poor clearing, but are inconsistencies in the transparency that gave very different  density in the print and so toned very differently than the rest of the image. The “plate tone” effect is also a result of the transparency itself. I’m using a very inexpensive laser printer (Brother HL 1212W, to be specific), so the quality of the transparency toner layer can be, errr, “inconsistent”?



The most “photographic” image of the four — it comes from a digital photograph made on an iPhone 8+, output from the laser printer. Again, it is printed on Hahnemühle Platinum Rag postcard paper.

So until next time, a bientôt!

Ferric argentum…

So here’s a little album of four prints, reflecting what I’ve been working on the past month or so (actually longer than that, but it’s finally starting to come together in a bit more tangible way.

For those following along at home, the gory details:

Four small (less than 5″ x 7″, basically A5/Postcard size) prints.

#1. Done with a film neg, paper coated about 3 weeks before the exposure was made. (Guardi Watercolor Post Card paper)
#2. Printed from film neg, about 24 hours after coating; Silverberg handmade watercolor paper

#3. & #4. Printed from same coating batch as #2, but a week later from a LASER-Printed negative, on Boesner 250gm mixed media paper.



#2,#3, and #4 all gold and selenium toned.

These are experiments, as I find my way to a working process, setting up the space here in Leipzig so that I can have consistent working conditions. Right now one of the big challenges is being able to get paper coated, dried and printed quickly (i.e., not having to wait for a week before I can find time to print).

I am finding the use of the gold toner to be a true “discovery”… while not as noticeable on #3 & #4, watching the changes when processing #2 was absolutely breath-taking.

But the base color of the paper of #2 is just not right… the neutral color of the Boesner 250 is nice and readily available. Of course, I’m saving my stash of Hahnemühle Platinum Rag for later! I mean, who wouldn’t!?

The “newest” aspect in all of this is that #3 & #4 were printed from a laser-printed digital negative (they are actually quarters from an A4 transparency sheet) that came from a cell-phone photo. That’s as opposed to #1 & #2, which were produced by contacting printing an HP-5+ film negative from a Fuji 6×9 camera. Because kallitype is a contact printing process, that means that the image is the size of the image matrix, in this case 6cm x 9cm (or 2 ¼” x 31/4″).

So once I feel I have a consistent paper/coating process I will be exploring the possibilities that this negative matrix creation will allow me moving forward. It means that I will be able to produce larger images and prints.

Thanks for following and enjoy the ride!

Ben Woitena, online…

So things have been a bit busy for me and I’ve been a bit absent here.

But this morning, a dear friend shared a link to a digital portfolio of his work. Ben was among the first new group people I met when I moved back to Houston from Austin, after doing my undergraduate work there. Watching him as he worked made a huge impression and talking with him, and other artists (the conversations of between him and Don Shaw were like listening to dueling magicians) sealed my decision to keep making images, how ever I could.

I hope you’ll take a look at his site.
Meanwhile, back in Leipzig, Weihnachtsmarkt is in full swing as we begin to close in on Christmas. The weather is NOT keeping the crowds away!

Ein bisschen von diesem, ein bisschen von jenem…

Which is to say, “a little from this, a little from that”. And that is how it’s been. The weather here has not decided if it will be Spring or Winter — there’s snow in the forecast for this weekend, but those days it does decide that it’s time to move on, the days are quite glorious. Growing up on the Texas Coast, Spring was more a matter of hours, not thought of as a season of weeks if not months. Ever since I was in Grad School back in Ann Arbor, Michigan, I have come to appreciate Spring with all its capricious attitude and snow. Of course, experiencing mountain weather of Laramie at 2200 meters meant going from Winter to Spring to Summer and back to Winter in the space of 24 hours!

But we persist.

And that means the continuing train and tram travel, interrupted by biking and walking where and when we can. Public transport offers the most fun… and sometimes we get repeat visits. I didn’t take her photo yesterday, but this is another un-named fellow traveller on the S-bahn.

Her companion from before was not present but I suppose I’ll see him next time I’m coming back from that direction. There are a number of faces that are beginning to become familiar as we have similar commuting habits. This seems to be especially true for we cyclists, who often wind up watching out for each other at the stops to be sure we can get on and off with our bikes.

Longing to go, a captive of the sun.

Little hints along the way, walking from station to client, client to station…

This morning, the tips of those branches were now spreading sworls of leaves. By next week I’m sure they will be fully formed.

Here are some gratuitous motorcycle photos for you, Terry… still not much sign of the café racers, but I’m sure they are around:

I wonder whose ego is bigger between those two?

As for the localvores, it’s “spargelzeit” and we’ve been inundated with both white and green asparagus. Good eats for while it is here (and it seems to last longer than the all-too short Fall chantarelle season in the restaurants).

Two more transit photos for today — the first was on the tram, coming back from a client. They got on with me and we joked a bit in German… the real fun was later when I wound up giving directions, auf Deutsch natürlich, to a group of Germans, showing them on my phone where they needed to get off. The couple found that immensely amusing, the American explaining directions in Leipzig.

The other gentleman was sitting opposite on another tram, and his expression was simply one to not miss. So I didn’t…

So that’s all for now, from a little here and a little there… à bientôt!

Faces on a train (apologies to Hitchcock)

Some of you know I especially like to do my people-watching on public transport, and as I am so dependent upon it here, it is very difficult to resist. Add to the dependence upon it the sheer range of variety, and it is an extemporaneous public portraitist’s paradise (or Hell, but more of that elsewhen*).

One can speculate and make up all manner of stories of what one sees in the eyes of these strangers who are sharing this space with you. Sometimes those speculations are true, other times they are simply your own fantasies. It doesn’t matter, the faces are there, we are all wondering why our train has been yet again pulled to a siding for a further delay, asking ourselves if Deutsche Bahn will ever finish working on the tracks.


I shared an image of her earlier, but she really does epitomize so many of the riders in the evening… others are more animated, sharing their experiences of the day with each other…


and his companion…


… just another day on the S-bahn.

There are days when I wish I weren’t so tired as to be a little too slow on the riposte. Shortly after making the above two photos, I was accosted from behind my seat by another rider who, in German began asking me what I was doing, taking pictures of people on the train, telling me how rude it was. Had I been a little less tired, I would have demanded, as loudly as possible, if they knew just how rude it was to be peeking over someone’s shoulder on a crowded train, spying on someone else’s phone.

But I didn’t — I simply suddenly forgot that I spoke any German at all and that was the end of it. The photographic subjects seemed vaguely amused and embarrassed simultaneously.

Until next time, a biéntot and tschuß!

Working the S-Bahn

It’s been a long week and my weekend is here. No classes tomorrow so it starts tonight for me. So naturally the weather forecast is calling for wind, rain, and cool/cold temperatures.

Tonight was very much that way — that saying that I learned in Denmark about there being no bad weather, just bad clothing? Well, tonight was a poster child for that and even with the clothes, it was just plain miserable out there.

I was grateful to be on the train, coming back from the client tonight. So was the woman sitting across from me:

At peace on the train
At peace on the train

I am usually afraid to fall asleep on the train for very long for fear of winding up down in Zwickau. Although these days, with my rail pass, it wouldn’t be quite so challenging as the first visit to that town. Must plan for another visit and take the bikes to get around.

Until next time, a bientôt and tschuß!

Still to come

Winter is not done with us here, but there are a few brave souls making their presence known…

One hopes that they are not proverbial sacrificial lambs of Spring…

Some things never stopped, though perhaps they slowed down a little… construction seems to have been ongoing —

… and life on the street has remained unscathed.

Time for another graffiti-fest… until then, a bientôt! Tschuß!

Whispers of Spring to come..


One of the more esoteric signs of impending Spring in any town of size is the Spring Orchid show — the enthusiasts and local botanical gardens do their best to show what they have that is blooming.

Leipzig is no different and we recently had the chance to catch the local show here. I confess that I have become somewhat jaded, having grown and exhibited orchids for several years, as well as working closely with several American Orchid Society judges as a judging clerk. That sort of experience tends to have an impact on expectations and is unavoidable. Still…

I was delighted by some of what I DID see in the show. I can’t tell that there was any kind of judging or competition among the growers and it wasn’t clear if the plants we were seeing were from local enthusiasts or if they were from the greenhouses of the Botanical Gardens. At any rate, I did see some old familiars, a few new faces of orchids I’d only read about or seen in photos. I also discovered that the native American orchids that I was fortunate to find in the wild have been cultivated and some of the greenhouses here are actually selling them. Goodbye, paycheck… I’m about to have a relapse of orchid fever!

And the light is starting to change as the sun is finally crawling a bit more northward in the sky. The buildings are getting painted with a new light that serves them nicely.

Structures in morning light
Structures in morning light

Of course, the light on the tram is as seductive as ever and one uses the camera at hand to capture the fleeting visions as one can.

Tram portraits
Tram portraits

That’s all for now. Tschuß and a bientôt!

Liszt, Chopin, Mussorgsky… die Gewandhaus zu Leipzig

Two by Liszt, an encore by Chopin, then the full orchestra doing Mussorgsky… and no photography allowed.


Bertrand Chamayou was an absolute delight, bringing more than the required energy to both the Liszt pieces, but the second one especially — the “Fantasia on Hungarian folk melodies for piano and orchestra”, the melody being well-known by aficionados of Bugs Bunny films — tends to leave some serious scorch marks on the keyboard. The “Totentanz” theme is equally familiar in its wrathfulness, the “Dies Irae” being an ever more “oldie, but goodie”. His choice of a Chopin barcarolle was a perfect way of cooling down after the heat of the Liszt.

But oldies… I’ve heard the Mussorgsky dozens of times, but tonight was simply “Wow.” The orchestral arrangements (there’s Ravel’s which we got to hear and at least one other) call for a larger band, the tonal colors that Mussorgsky suggested in the original piece for piano requiring the likes of a soprano saxophone and two harps, just to name a few of the additions.

And the Gewandhaus Orchestra delivered. In proverbial spades. The space itself was certainly a factor — I can’t wait to hear more music there; I’d love to hear something with the delicacy of Vaughan Williams that would utilize the ability of the hall to reflect the tiniest tinkle of a triangle to glorious bombast of the brass section.

Verweile doch, Leipzig — du bißt so schön!