U of S | Mailing List Archive | alt-photo-process-l | Re: Steichen image in April's 'Vanity Fair'

Re: Steichen image in April's 'Vanity Fair'

I just had a chance to see this image, and I can believe he might
have gotten this with just those 2 layers-- pt/pd and cyanotype. Of
course, it would be nice to see it in real life. As mentioned, we
don't really know how much this reproduction has been "punched up" by
the magazine editors.

I've done a lot of pt/pd and cyanotype, though with pinhole negatives
only, and while I've never achieved this deep orange-y flesh tone, I
have been consistently surprised by how the flesh tones in portraits
do seem to subtly change color and stand out more, even when the cyan
layer, at first glance, doesn't look like it's had any effect at all
on the flesh tones. Of course, the cyanotype, done after the pt/pd
layer, can be controlled somewhat via exposure and emulsion, and the
cyan color will obviously tend to adhere more to the thinner parts of
the negative (more noticeable, of course, with a pinhole negative
than a regular lens-based negative).

But I think it was Mark who mentioned Sam Wang's cyanotype over pt/pd
yesterday, and I remember seeing one of Sam's portraits done like
that, and thinking that he must have also used gum-- it was
incredible-- and really seemed like it had so many more colors in it
than just the pt/pd and cyanotype-- very rich-- but I remember
asking him about it, and he'd used only the pt/pd and cyanotype.

Also, I can imagine that different papers available to Steichen (from
what we have now) might also make a difference. And what about the
chemicals themselves. Are they exactly the same as what we now use?

But who knows. Maybe he did add gum, or some hand-tinting. I'd love
to see the real thing. I'm guessing the real image isn't quite as
rich and dark as this reproduction, but that's just a guess.

On Mar 10, 2009, at 10:16 AM, phritz phantom wrote:

all of that sounds really interesting, thanks for the details,
is there some more info to be found on that platinum/palladium and
ferroprussiate printing technique?
i really have a hard time understanding how steichen got these kind
of colours (even when the colours are a little off in the online
pic) with just two layers. i'd expect the pd/pt to be a brownish
colour and the cyano blue.
they only way i can imagine getting these kind of colours is
through multple layers, each one individually toned. maybe a
blackish-brown one, a dark blue one and a third cyano somehow toned
to an orange.

and did he take this pic before the invention of colour process
films? and with a single neg or with colour separations?


Christina Z. Anderson schrieb:
aaaaHA. Infinitely clearer to me as well and I thank you for your
very clear and pointed explanation!

When I saw the image online I couldn't figure out the connection
between the pond image as well and NOW I understand.

As an aside, having done lots of pd/cyano, I am very surprised
that he was able to derive that flesh color from that process. I
would not be at all surprised that there is a gum layer lurking
there as well. Unless pt/pd oranges over time and/or the paper
has oranged and/or the scan is WAY more color saturated as Tom
Hawkins I think said. But read further and I'll tell you why I
wonder if this is not the case.

Back to the Pond image. Of three articles I have on it the
ArtNews says as I have said it is a hand-colored BW image. When I
initially read this I did not believe it was correct. BUT, to a
novice, gum over platinum could certainly be considered a "hand
colored bw image" even if incorrect. This is why I say
auctioneers/those in the arts need to get their processes
straight, but it really stems from people being ignorant of alt,
which none of us on this list are.

All sources say there are only 3 of this image. All sources agree
one was sold off, one remains in the Met, and one is at the Moma.
I don't know the buyer of the $2.9 million one, though.

The Photo On Campus article is really a neat one because they have
gone to recreate where the image was taken. This magazine
referred to it as "a richly layered gum bichromate print." Again,
a layer of pd lurking in there is not too far off the description
but enough for us altees. Believe me, I am not justifying this
error, just acknowledging how it can happen, especially knowing
how few photographers even understand what a gum print even is.

But my other source is the Steichen book (Lowell 1978) wherein
Steichen is writing to Stieglitz and says ,"...Another one [-]
Moonrise [Mamaroneck, New York, 1904, pl. 35] in three printings:
first printing, grey black plat[inum]--2nd, plain blue print
[cyanotype] (secret)[-] 3rd, greenish gum. It is so very dark I
must take the glass off because it acts too much like a mirror. I
hope they will handle it carefully--of course the varnish will
protect it some--"
Source Leaf 54, Alfred Stieglitz Archive, Collection of American
Literature, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale
University, New Haven, Conn.

I have no idea what "secret" refers to.

This description refers to the "cyano/plati one at the Moma. It is
pictured in color in the book. In the back of the book it
describes the plate as a platinum and ferroprussiate print! So
either they, too, left out the gum layer, or the three process
print Steichen refers to is NOT the one in the Moma and refers to
one of the two others. BUT both of the images I have of the print
that sold for $2.9 million are the same print, looking very much
like a layer of yellow and blue gum over a pt print. Much more
glowing than the cyano/pd in the Moma.

End of story, not really important, just thought it'd be of
interest to someone out there, and having NOTHING to do with our
cigar boy. Can't wait for my Vanity Fair to come in the mail now....


Christina Z. Anderson
----- Original Message ----- From: "Katharine Thayer"
To: <alt-photo-process-l@usask.ca>
Sent: Monday, March 09, 2009 9:29 PM
Subject: Re: Steichen image in April's 'Vanity Fair'

Actually, the analysis, on the two that were owned by the
Metropolitan, one of which was auctioned for $2.9 million, was done
by the conservation department at the Metropolitan (who do have
access to electron microscopes and all the best techniques for
determining what a print is made of). By whose assertion is it said
that the print that sold for $2.9 million was gum over platinum? By
the Metropolitan's assertion, by the experts who spoke on the record
about the sale at the time, and by the assertion of the auction
catalog itself. I assume that the analysis of the cyanotype over
platinum owned by MOMA was done by MOMA. ArtNews is just simply
wrong, as was the person who claimed on this thread that the print
that sold for $2.9 million was a straight gum print; it's just not

But that wasn't the question I was trying to answer today; I've known
those facts for several years already. What I was trying to
determine today was what was the image that was reproduced on page 61
of Vanity Fair? Your comment made it seem like you were saying that
the image in Vanity Fair was the same image as the one that sold for
$2.9 million, but maybe one of the other prints? That's what didn't
make sense to me (besides the assertion that the one that sold for
$2.9 million was a gum print, which simply isn't accurate). Why
would one of those prints be in a show at a gallery? I can imagine
one of them showing up at Christy's or Sotheby's, or in a museum
retrospective, but why at Greenberg; it didn't make sense to me.

And now Tom has solved the mystery; it wasn't that image at all but
the one I found online, and whatever you were talking about didn't
have any particular connection to the thread. Okay, that makes sense
to me, and that's all I was looking for, was some sense.

On Mar 9, 2009, at 6:07 PM, Katharine Thayer wrote:

Well, okay, since no one would answer my question I spent the
afternoon out in a roaring sleetstorm looking for a copy of the
April Vanity Fair to answer the question for myself. I went to
the library and all the stores that might carry general
interest magazines in my nearest big town, and no one has the
April issue available yet.

I was curious which print of Steichen's was reproduced, in an
effort to make sense of the statement made earlier in this
thread: ""There was a good article on this image in Photo On
Campus about the one that sold for 3 million. That was a gum
print, but it says there were three prints of this negative made
so I wonder how the third one was made."

For the record, the print that sold for $2.9 million was not a
gum print, but gum over platinum. There were two other prints
made from the same negative; one of them, which Stieglitz gave
to the Metropolitan in 1933 and is still in the Met's collection
AFAIK, has been analyzed and is believed to be hand-applied
colori over platinum. The third, which is owned by MOMA, is
platinum and cyanotype.

I found an image online from the current Steichen exhibition at
Greenberg that we can actually all look at so we can all be on
the same page; I don't know if this is the one that was
reproduced in Vanity Fair, and I also don't know why it seems
to be on a gay website. The point is that it's an example of
cyanotype over palladium, which Tom was asking about, and I
think it's absolutely stunning. I have a number of Steichen
monographs but I've never seen this particular image before. I
wouldn't have believed it possible to get such warm flesh tones
simply from a combination of palladium and cyanotype, but I'm
told by someone who used to print with this combination that
this is typical of the combination of processes. This is the
first time ever that I have wished to print in any process than
gum; I really love the way this looks.



On Mar 9, 2009, at 11:45 AM, Katharine Thayer wrote:

I don't have Vanity Fair in front of me and it would take some
traveling to find one; can someone enlighten me as to which
print is reproduced in the magazine? Thanks,

On Mar 7, 2009, at 8:21 PM, Tom Hawkins wrote:

Hi Folks,

I know it’s only a magazine reproduction, but...

In the April issue of Vanity Fair (p.61) there’s an image from
a Steichen exhibit currently at Greenberg in NYC.

It’s described as a “palladium ferroprusiate print.”

Am I correct in assuming that’s a gum over palladium?