Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tracy Mortimer's 'PRECIOUS METAL'

Sariat, France 
Palladium Print, Edition of 12
© Tracy Mortimer

Western Australian photographic artist, Tracy Mortimer launches her 'PRECIOUS METAL' exhibition at Alliance Francaise de Perth on Monday night. Tracy's exquisite hand crafted Palladium prints combine digital capture with some of the earliest photographic production techniques. The stunning images transport the viewer back to the world of Eugene Atget and France in the early twentieth century. A perfect combination of content and production to produce a result that is just 'right'. 

Tracy was one of the students in my Fine-Art photography class at Central TAFE where she experimented with a range of alternative processes before deciding to explore the Palladium printing technique in more depth for her major research project in her graduating year. 

As the name suggests, Palladium Printing uses palladium (part of the platinum group of metals) to create the visible image. The process dates back to the mid 1800's and requires the negative to be in direct contact with the sensitized paper and exposed to a UV light source such as sunlight. Different developers give different results, potassium oxalate based developers will produce warmer images whilst the ammonium citrate developer produces a cooler, black toned image.

It's a slow, hand crafted process that is not cheap, palladium is a precious metal after all and it's popularity went into steep decline in the 1930's as prices of the metal rose and the production of the conventional silver gelatin based photographic papers ramped up. It started to regain popularity in the 1970s, but still remained largely the domain of 'fine-art' photographers and printers. 

Like many of these 'alternative process' contact printing techniques, the digital era has created renewed interest and opened up new possibilities. The hand crafted nature of sensitizing the paper, exposing and producing the print is a welcome alternative to the mechanical pixel pushing with automatic undo of photoshop. But the digital age also allows for digital capture and adjustment to produce 'perfect' negatives that can really show the final printed image to best effect. 'PRECIOUS METAL' exemplifies this. Go see it!

'PRECIOUS METAL' is on show at Alliance Francaise de Perth until the 29th of October,
Alliance Francaise de Perth
75 Broadway, Nedlands
Mon 11th Oct - Fri 29th Oct 2010
Mon-Fri, 9am-730pm; Sat, 9am-1pm
Phone: 08 9386 7921

For more information about Tracy and her work, visit her website