While there I met with Don Anton - a photography professor at Humboldt State University and we discussed The Bus visiting that fine institution during the fall semester. Don was pretty excited about my mission and the visit was brief but pleasant. I think I can swing by HSU on my way back from the East Coast sometime in September or October, hopefully it won't be as cold then as it was last week...
I also had a great pleasure of meeting Vaughn Hutchins - a respected carbon printer and a very nice fellow indeed. He contributed greatly to the historic print collection by donating a beautiful carbon print from an original 4x5in negative on 8x10 gelatin photo paper.
It appears that Vaughn got the idea of printing in carbon back in 1990 after he read an article on it in Black and White magazine, but it was 2 years later that he actually started on that path. Carbon is a pretty demanding technique and he said that it took him a while to get prints of consistent quality that he was satisfied with. In vented in 1855 by Alphonse Poitevin this method of printing relies on gelatin becoming insoluble when mixed this potassium dichromate and exposed to light. It is a transfer process that uses pigments, which could be of any color and could be combined through CMYK separations to create full color images. Because of the use of pigment it is a highly archival process and due to it being a transfer process it presents the image reversed left to right unless a second transfer is performed. It seems that the quality of carbon prints that first attracted me is the same one that caught Vaughn's eye as well. You see, due to the image being composed of minute layers of gelatin with pigment mixed into it and those layers sitting on top of the support paper each value can actually be seen as a miniature plateau raised above the white of the supporting surface. That gives photographs printed in carbon a very unique look reminiscent of 3D. Vaughn also pointed out that carbon can hold a tremendous range of light - 13+ stops! He said that it was the only technique that can adequately relate the range of lighting found in a redwood forest, where even on an overcast day the shadows are far below the slivers of sky that one may catch through the giant overhanging branches.
Having practiced carbon printing now for over 20 years, Vaughn teaches new printers how to use this beautiful technique in workshops all over the country. He does also occasionally prints in platinum. He uses original in-camera negatives ranging from 4x5in to 11x14in and perhaps on my way back south I may have a pleasure to seeing an 11x14 carbon print. For now here is a link to his website where you can see some of his work, read the blog, see the impressive list of exhibits and contact Vaughn to inquire about his upcoming workshops.