[alt-photo] Re: casein history

Evan J Hughes evan at evanhughes.org
Fri Jul 20 19:15:45 GMT 2012

Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the heads-up on the book; I will hunt it out.

     I use soap that is primarily made from olive oil (I make my own 
soap too so I have plenty).   The key is to use real soap from 
saponified oil, rather than modern detergents that may say they are 
soap.   I have also used soap-flakes designed for clothes washing in the 
past too, however it is getting more difficult to find real soap; the 
detergents are much cheaper to manufacture and so as consumers we are 
not being given much choice these days.

    I use the soap to counteract the effects of the oil in the soot that 
I grind for the pigment.  The oils and tars in the soot seem to react 
with the soap to kill all the bubbles in the glop; the result is that it 
is like pouring liquid silk when making tissues.  If you add soap with a 
non-oily pigment (or do not add oil), the glop can foam like crazy and 
does not make good tissue. I assume the availability of high-quality 
oil-free pigment is one reason that soap-based glop fell out of favour 
and practitioners turned to IPA for controlling bubbles.   I still use 
sugar so that the tissues melt easily and develop well at a lower 
temperature (my sugar:gelatine ratio can be as high as 1:1 too).

    I poured some gelatine tissues a while ago with acetate as a backing 
support.  When the tissue dried, it came clean away from the acetate to 
form a 'true' unsupported carbon tissue.  I have just sensitised a piece 
of this tissue (carefully!) to see if I can make a print without using 
any backing paper support.   If so, it may be a route to using the 
gelatine/casein mix easily.

      Best regards,


On 20/07/2012 19:54, Christina Anderson wrote:
> Hi Evan,
> I was not researching carbon so did not pay any attention to the support.
> The soap in Johnson's patent was in place of the sugar.
> Hope this helps. My guess would be (as Weston Naef said to me while we were both sitting in the GEH library researching so I bent his ear for a bit) that if casein is not included in the carbon formula (or Fresson for that matter) it was because there was an issue with it that made it not work as well as other substances. But heck, if it works for you, pretty soon we'll see Evanotypes!
> BTW what soap are you using? I think he was using potassium oleate, if that is the correct chemical name.
> I don't know if you've researched this book, but it is available at abebooks.com and is a GEM. Patents for Inventions, Abridgments of specifications relating to photography.NY: Arno Press, 1979.
> Chris
> Christina Z. Anderson
> christinaZanderson.com
> On Jul 20, 2012, at 12:42 PM, Evan J Hughes wrote:
>> Hi Chris,
>>    Very many thanks for the extract of the patent; I will try with alkaline developing baths.   I have found carbon tissue is most susceptible to melting/ over softening when the tissue is being sensitised or mated to the final support; I use spirit sensitising now so do not have many issues, however I could see that tray sensitising could be quite alarming if the tissue started to dissolve in the dichromate bath.
>>    Did the patent mention what the tissue temporary support material was intended to be?    I use a paper support but I vaguely recollect some of the early patents consider using a thin layer of colloid.  With the colloid, it may be possible to expose from the reverse side, through the colloid support, so that the image can be developed directly (i.e. the unhardened gelatine is on the opposite side to the colloid support film).  A transfer could then be made to the final image paper and the colloid layer removed.  If this is the case, the tissue does not have to separate from its temporary support during the developing.  When the tissue is poured onto a paper backing, the gelatine does need to melt in the developing bath so that the backing paper can be removed and the development completed.   I am intrigued to see how the alkaline bath can penetrate well enough through the paper to the unhardened gelatine/casein mix in order to allow it to dissolve enough for the support paper to be stripped away; I will give it a go though.
>>    I also noticed the patent says 'Soap, however, is not absolutely necessary'.   I use a soap-based glop, but I add soap not for pliability (the sugar does that), but to remove the bubbles (yes it is counter intuitive!).   Does the recipe also use sugar for pliability?
>>   Best regards,
>>               Evan
>> On 20/07/2012 01:28, Christina Anderson wrote:
>>> Hi Evan,
>>> Glad you are trying this! Gelatin was susceptible to melting in hot water or weather and casein would help with that, esp. in summer months. Here is part of the patent description that may be of some help.
>>> My third improvement consists in replacing the gelatine and its analogues in the above compounds wholly or in part by certain other organic compounds having the property of insolubility in warm water but of solubility in some other chemical agent, such as ammonia or the alkalies or salts; and the best substances I am at present acquainted with are the proteine compounds which possess the specified properties, such as caseine, legumine, modified albumen, and their congeners. A pigment compound so formed, and mixed with a bichromate, is sensitive to light; but the picture is not revealed or developed by hot water until a few drops of ammonia or other alkali possessing the like property has been added to the water. In carrying out this part of my invention I form a curd of skimmed milk, as in making cheese, by precipitating the caseine with rennet or by an acid. I collect the curd on a filter, and, after partially drying it by pressure, I dissolve the caseine or curd in dilute liquor ammonia. This solution—which should be as thick as the previously described solution of gelatine in four and a half parts of water—I use instead of a portion of the gelatine solution; that is to say, I take away part of the gelatine solution and substitute in lieu thereof an equal portion of the caseine solution. The quantity so substituted may be greatly varied. Ten per cent of the caseine solution so substituted renders the resulting compound insoluble in water until a certain quantity of ammonia has been added, and twice or three times that quantity does not prevent a workable tissue compound being formed; and in making such a pigment compound I find it best to mix the caseine solution with that of the soap, and add the two together to the gelatine. Soap, however, is not absolutely necessary, as the caseine itself gives flexibility to the tissue, and thus supersedes the necessity of employing the soap...
>>> Christina Z. Anderson
>>> christinaZanderson.com
>>> On Jul 19, 2012, at 11:30 AM, Evan J Hughes wrote:
>>>> Hi Chris,
>>>>    I hope to have another go at adding casein to carbon tissue over the next few weeks, but on thinking about the behaviour of casein, do you know what the advantage of adding casein to carbon tissue was thought to be?
>>>>    My first thought was that it may make the tissue more sensitive and therefore expose faster, but otherwise, many of the properties of casein are not necessarily an advantage, i.e. it is important to have a recipe that develops easily in warm rather than hot water to reduce issues with bubbling; the unexposed tissue needs to melt very easily to allow the support paper to be stripped away.   I do not see how the casein may help with adhesion during transfer, although it can make a very effective glue.
>>>>   I plan to try a few glop mixes ranging over 10% to 30% of casein; have you noticed how much pigment was used in the gelatine-casein carbon tissues?   I wonder if the pigment quantity may be very high so that a very thin, high contrast tissue can be poured; rapid automated manufacture is then much more simple which would be important for mass-produced tissue.
>>>>      Best regards,
>>>>            Evan
>> -- 
>> http://www.concretebanana.co.uk
>> http://blog.concretebanana.co.uk


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