Old Photo on Silk

Bob Shirk MCPF

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Dec 27, 2000
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Shippensburg, PA USA
I had a customer bring in an item that I have not seen before. I'm curious about how it might have been made.

It is a photo of a small girl holding a cat. It looks like a black and white photo image. The detail in the image is very good (high resolution). The photo was taken around 1907. It is "printed" on a nice piece of silk. The image is about 8" X 14". The silk is about 16" X 22". It came in rolled in brown paper. The couple that brought it in said that it had been stored like that for more than fifty years. It is a photo of the gentleman's grandmother.

Has anyone seen one of these? It looks a lot like the computer generated T shirt prints. Does anyone know how this might have been made 95 years ago?
 

Le

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Denver,Colorado,USA
Bob, Many surfaces could be used to support a photograph. I have a photo of my grandfather on onionskin like paper supported by something like cheesecloth. The emulsion was applied by a brush and the surface was allowed to dry in the dark before it was sensitized by light. In my case you can see the brushstrokes.
 

Bill Henry-

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There is some goop you can buy through some of the more obscure photo/darkroom magazines that is essentially, “emulsion in a jar”.

Quite a few years ago, my wife wanted a photo on a dinner plate and I tried it. It never worked particularly well in my case (I couldn’t focus the image properly), but as Le suggested you brush this paste onto something, let it dry, then expose it under your enlarger. The emulsion speed of this paste is very slow if I can remember correctly.

Like well fixed and washed black and white prints, I’ll bet that your photo on silk is very stable and will last forever … as long as you don’t wax your car with it.
 

Rebecca

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Vancouver, B.C., Canada
I think the process would be more like that used to make salted paper prints, with very little binder (emulsion).

http://albumen.stanford.edu/library/monographs/reilly/chap3.html

This is the chapter on salted prints, but you can read the whole book

Reilly, James M. The Albumen & Salted Paper Book: The history and practice of photographic printing, 1840-1895. Light Impressions Corporation. Rochester, 1980

on this link. It is really interesting.

Rebecca
 

wpfay

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The process of hand applying emulsions is still very much alive. A gallery I work with specializes in photos done with platinum/palladium salt emulsions. The emulsion can be applied with a brush or roller to any substrate with proper porosity.

One of the professors at the local college is expert in the archane processes of photograhy and has produced many salt prints on a variety of substrates including a variety of fabrics.

Robert Maplethorpe printed some of his photos on silk. I don't see any absolute black and white in the work, but the middle tones were incredible.
 
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