I had so much fun learning the salt-paper process of developing negatives. What better way to take the photos I shot at Lacock Abbey, England, and process them the same way the famous resident of Lacock did. For those of you who don’t know, William Henry Fox Talbot inherited and lived at Lacock during the 19th-century. He is credited with being the father of photography because he invented the process that fixed a photo onto paper.
The story goes that he either figured this out while on his honeymoon or postponed his honeymoon because he was in the middle of his experiments. Both versions make for a good story. He figured out that if he coated paper with a salt solution and then let it dry that he could produce an image on the paper when the paper was exposed to UV light.
While on my trip to England last month I visited the home of Talbot. Just standing in the same places where Talbot made his photos was awe-inspiring. I ran around with my Hasselblad taking photos in the same locations that he used. He used his home as his subject quite often and who wouldn’t if they lived in an abbey. The first photo he made with this process was taken upstairs through the now famous oriel window. Turns out this photo was the size of a postage stamp, but it set photography on its path that has allowed all of us to enjoy it today.
When I returned home Newspace Photography Center was offering a class in salt-paper processing so I knew this was my chance to make images the way Talbot did. However, without much sun in the Pacific NW at this time of year we had to use a homemade UV light box. That also made processing times much shorter than in Talbot’s day. He would have to expose his photos to light for 8 hours or more and with a light box I only had to use times of 4 to 8 minutes.
But before you can make the prints you have to make digital negatives because your finished print is the same size as your negative.
Now that I have had this experience I plan to set up a place in my home to do more. There is a great site at Bostwick&Sullivan where you can purchase all the supplies needed for alternative processes. They even offer the software needed to make the negatives.
I have now learned how to do wet collodion and salt paper processing. I plan to keep learning others.