Mark Osterman's Posts

Mark Osterman is the Process Historian in the Kay R. Whitmore Conservation Center at George Eastman House. Best known for his depth of knowledge in the area of collodion photography, Osterman is also internationally recognized for his research and teaching of photographic processes from Niepce heliographs to gelatin emulsions. Osterman's curriculum, once reserved for the international conservation community, is now available to the public through a series of hands-on workshops at Eastman House and other venues in the U.S. and abroad.

The Revival of Gelatin Emulsion Making

Posted by on Mar 25 2013 | Photography

Coating film

We’ve been preparing for this workshop for two months now. My research assistants Chris Holmquist and Nick Brandreth and I just finished our first public workshop in making, coating, shooting and processing gelatin emulsions. Ron Mowrey, ex Kodak emulsion engineer, was also there to answer any theoretical questions.

Haven, Nick, Joe and Dave (1)

I designed the formula back in 2004 as a basic 1880 type emulsion used for gelatin dry plates negatives. It’s very much like what George Eastman’s chemists would have made.

We had seven attendees during the four day workshop and we’ll have six more come to the second session. The first day included an illustrated lecture on the history and chemistry and then we demonstrated how to make an emulsion in daylight to give everyone a chance to photograph each step. After that we divided into two groups and they each made batches of silver bromide gelatin emulsion.

Joe Gelbro Workshop (1)

On the second day we coated 4×5” test plates, exposed them in the George Eastman House gardens and processed them in the darkrooms. The next morning we evaluated the negatives, looked at amazing original prints in the photograph collection and rare emulsion making equipment in the technology collection. We ended the day by coating more plates.

Nick additionI (1)

The third day we spent most of the time shooting and processing plates. In the late afternoon we coated plates for shooting the following morning. On the final day we shot and processed in the morning and at lunch evaluated the plates and Nick scanned them for reference. We went out and shot a group portrait …on our emulsion. Chris ended the workshop with a demonstration of coating the emulsion on paper and film.

Emulsion Group I 2013

This wasn’t the first time gelatin emulsion making has been offered to the public, but given the scope of what the group learned, what they saw and what they produced, it was a landmark workshop. We hope that the interest in emulsion making and shooting will grow like it did after we taught the first public workshops in collodion here at the museum back in the 90s.

ChrisGEHTest1

More information about our photo process workshops here

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Why are they called Tintypes? There isn’t any tin!

Posted by on Mar 14 2012 | History, Other, Photography

Well, I guess I forgot how easy it was to make a tintype; no cutting or cleaning glass and no pictures peeling off the plate. This was all about pouring the collodion and making a unique image in the time it takes to make a cup of coffee.

We started on Monday at George Eastman House with an illustrated presentation on the chemistry and history of the wet collodion negative and positive processes. Then we went down to the technology archive where curator Todd Gustavson presented a display of original tintype cameras, silver baths and other rare equipment.

Curator of Technology Todd Gustavson (far left) with group. 

 

After lunch we went to Scully & Osterman Studio where they met my wife, France. I gave a demonstration of making a tintype that included tinting and burnishing the picture. The group then practiced the techniques of pouring collodion onto tintype plates and applying the developer.

Pouring Collodion on the Plate.

 

On Tuesday we all met at Scully & Osterman and after a morning recap on theory the group I gave a demonstration of mixing iron developer and France demonstrated mixing iodized collodion. The group spent the rest of the morning shooting 4 ¼” x 5 ½” plates. After a lunch break they continued to make 5” x 7” tintypes into the afternoon. The students varnished their own plates themselves before shooting the next image. At the end of the day I discussed the basics of identifying antique lens types, explained how a wet plate conversion back works and demonstrated a simple traveling darkroom made from cardboard.

Wednesday we shot all morning. After a great lunch we continued shooting into the afternoon. For the last day in the studio we shot 6½” x 8½” whole plates. Some of the students actually used an original four lens tintype camera that exposes four images simultaneously on the same plate. Late in the afternoon we went back to the Museum and viewed some really beautiful examples of vintage Melainotypes, ferrotypes and tintypes.

 

 

Oh, the term tintype evolved to be the name for all collodion images made on thin sheets of metal; none of which were made of tin. Cheap things in the nineteenth century were often made of tinned iron that was coated with a shiny black finish applied to the surface to prevent rusting. Since Melainotypes and ferrotypes were the cheapest images you could buy and made on black finished sheets of iron…the term tintype seemed to fit nicely. By the way, we didn’t use tin either, we made our tintypes on aluminum.

Our next collodion workshops are Ambrotype Making here in Rochester in May and the Ambrotype and Tintype Workshop at Fox Talbot Museum, Lacock England in July.

Check out more images on our Facebook album for this Workshop.

 

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A Photographic Revolution in Rochester!

Posted by on Feb 14 2012 | History, Other, Photography

Sure, the times are changing and technology moves foreword. Yes, it’s sad that films days are numbered, but quit your whining. There’s another revolution in photography and it’s coming from Rochester, the “image city.”  I’m referring to the counter culture of historic photographic processes and they’re hot. Photographers all over the world are making their own plates and papers— and they’re doing it here at Eastman House.

 

Azo print made with the gelatin emulsion process being taught in April

Tintype being fixed

 

Coating paper in the gelatin emulsion darkroom 

 Scully & Osterman Skylight Studio, where we’ll shoot tintypes in March

 

The revival in the daguerreotype process started at George Eastman House back in the 1970s. Hey, we also jump-started the current craze in collodion photography by teaching the very first wet plate workshops in the mid-1990s. In the last two years we introduced dry collodion plates, collodion chloride printing-out paper and even did workshops in the earliest processes of Niepce, Daguerre and Talbot… the heliograph, physautotype and photogenic drawing! In private tutorials here at the museum we’ve taught albumen on glass and even orotones!

In March we have a great three day Tintype Workshop where we’ll make plates under the skylight over at Scully & Osterman Studio and see amazing original images and even collodion era cameras and equipment from the archives at the museum.

Gelatin silver emulsions are soon going to be the next historic photographic process revival and now is the time to gather information before the culture is gone. This April ex-Kodak emulsion engineer Ron Mowrey and I will teach our third gelatin emulsion workshop!

This is the real stuff for all you people who have been so upset about the demise of emulsion. We’ll be making a simple printing paper emulsion, but it’s the first step to the more advanced film emulsions; so one step at a time. If we get enough interest we’ll give a film and plate emulsion workshop next year, but the prerequisite would be the basic workshop. So, the way to keep film alive…is to make it your self!

Read more about all our 2012 Photography Workshops, or contact me directly at mosterman@geh.org to arrange a private tutorial, custom group workshop or if you need some advice with a process that’s giving you trouble.

 

 

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John Deere Tractor Green Carbon Printing

Posted by on Apr 25 2011 | Behind The Scenes, Other, Photography

I had a small group last week for the carbon photography workshop, which made it easier for me and unusually spacious in the darkroom for the participants. Though no matter how few people you have making carbon prints though there never seems to be enough hot water, so calls of “more hot water” were regularly heard in the darkroom for three days.

We made the first batch of carbon tissues using casting frames, coating rods and our fingers so that everyone had the experience of trying different ways to make the tissues. After everyone made their initial exposure tests and first prints we made two new color batches of pigmented gelatin and prepped other support material; watercolor paper and glass.

David Developing Carbon

 

Drying Tissues

 

‘John Deere tractor’ Green Orotone

 

My demo in action


One of the colors that came from this freedom of extra time was a sort of John Deere tractor green. We also made a lovely cool blue tissue. One of the participants wanted to make a carbon transparency on glass and at the time thought he had chosen the blue tissue. He was really surprised when we turned on the white lights during the development and saw that his beautifully made transfer was actually green. When the plate was dry I held a sheet of bronze coated paper behind the image so the group could see how it would look as an orotone. The green wasn’t so bad.

 

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Carbon Printing Workshop: Easy to do with beautiful results

Posted by on Mar 30 2011 | Other, Photography

I first taught how to make carbon tissues and transfer pigment prints printing back when I was at George School in 1996. Imagine high school students making carbon prints! When these kids went to college and said they made carbon prints, their teachers didn’t believe them. A lot of these old processes are made out to be much more difficult than they are. In reality, it’s usually the negatives that give people the most trouble. It’s amazing to me how many experienced photographers can’t tell the difference between an over exposed and an over developed negative. Well, that’s the sort of thing I still teach when it comes to learning a printing process.

Thomas Annan, Close No. 28 Saltmarket, 1868 -1877, Carbon Print

 

We have a few spaces left for our upcoming carbon printing workshop  April 11-14th  and if the response from our last workshop [collodion chloride printing out emulsion] is any indication…we’re still giving the public something they can’t get anywhere else. I chose vintage carbon prints for the workshop from the photography archives last week and the work is breathtaking. Selections include original early carbon prints by Thomas Annan and the work of pictorialists Paul Lewis Anderson and Edward Steichen.

With four full days, the workshop will proceed at a leisurely pace. I am really looking forward to getting to know the interesting mix of art photographers, teachers, photo historians and the visually curious our workshops always attract.

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