So, what is liquid light? Liquid light is the gelatin silver light sensitive liquid photographic emulsion that is used in alternative photography printing processes based on applying it on any surface, exposing by an enlarger, and processing in conventional chemistry in darkroom.
Since the negatives are made, the most interesting part of creating a finished piece begins! There are many different printing techniques emerged throughout the history of photography, with the development of which now classical darkroom gelatin silver printing process has started up.
There are many kinds of ready to use darkroom photographic papers. But the most interesting and creative way is making the darkroom paper yourself using as the basis watercolor paper. It has an interesting fine texture that gives more depth to the prints and tactile sensation. But this also limits the use of this process. Some of the prints come out better than others of course.
The sources negative should be selected carefully. I cann’t immediately say what will print great and what will not. This is the way of many tests and lots of errors. In other hand any error may become a part of the finished piece of art. Which paper to choose is the topic for a separate article but I prefer heavy weight torchon papers at least 270gsm.
By the way, I cut the paper on the glass plate with stationary knife. It does not leave scratches on glass surface. Also I use ruler with rubber spacer line. It is very convenient because prevents paper from slipping during cutting.
To make paper suitable for printing it should be covered with the sensitive gelatin silver liquid light emulsion in darkroom under the red safelight as it was over 100 years ago. It is a complex and multistage process, which involves only manual work. The key highlight of this process is applying the liquid emulsion with a brush, spoonge or other tools. I personally prefer to use synthetic narrow brushes for emulsion covering.
This can be compared to coating a canvas for a painting and to a large extent determines the character of a future print. As a result, every print comes out unique and slightly different from the next one. This is an extremely interesting technique, which allows me to achieve great expression and imagery. All mistakes and unsuccessful experiments are allowed to become a part of the “finished work”.
It should be noted that liquid emulsion actually is not liquid due gelatin and should be melted in a water bath before use. Also some kind of papers should be precoated with a suitable preparation layer before applying the emulsion.
The printing process is very complex and can hardly be described in brief. But it is not much differ from printing on conventional ready to use darkroom papers. Anyway it is requires great skills. To achieve the desired result you need resorting to various “tricks” until — as if by enchantment — you get what you want. A really perfect print should not only have the proper contrast and tonality but also depth and artistic expression.
Printing with liquid emulsion process requires perfect fixing that means using of a fresher fixer and sufficiently long washing. The last depends on the basis (wood, glass, canvas, etc.). So, additional tricks may help. As for papers — the more paper weight than the longer washing is required.
After printing, rinsing and drying photographs should be flattened. For this they are should be placed under press for some time. To protect prints against external damage I prefer to cover them with varnish. I do it myself using a classical recipe based on mix of sandarac, ethanol and lavender oil.
Each individual print is slightly different from the next in its edition due to the physical nature of creating the prints. There is no way to make two exactly the same prints.