TOPSHIT PHOTOGRAPHY blog

Photography, Fine Art, Wet Plate Collodion, Alternative photography

Woodburytype – reinvented!

with 5 comments

Very few of readers of my blog will still remember my post published in 2014 where I’m showing my first concrete steps in reviving woodburytype process (LINK). Two years later I can finally say I’ve cracked the process and modernise it.

Let me explain. I’ve first learn about woodburytypes in 2013, at the workshop of carbon printing in George Eastman House. You can read more about Woodburytype process at Wikipedia or even better, look at the video bellow. But let me summarise why I like so much woodburytype and why is it worth to revive the process.

The woodburytype process was invented in 1864 by Water Woodbury and it was the first mechanical printing process that could print a photograph in good quality. Actually that is the under statement. The woodburytype – mechanically printed – print is the same quality like a photograph is! Wiki:

The Woodburytype process was a unique photomechanical process as it was the only practical fully continuous-tone photomechanical process ever invented.

You may take a magnifying glass and you will have a real problem to find a distinction of woodburytype print and carbon print photograph. But that said the process got extinct because of three reasons.
Firstly it was very slow. Printing houses could print about 100 photographs per hour.
Secondly, text could not be printed on the same page, so the woodburytype print had to be manually glued into a book or a magazine.
Thirdly Woodburytype process used huge printing presses for making mould or intaglio from which a woodburytype print was printed. For about 21x30cm photograph (A4 format) a pressure of about 400 tons was needed to make a mould thus the process was reserved only for big industrial printing houses, no amateur could have a press like that, so with the closure of the last woodburytype printing house in about 1900’s also the process died out.

A book by Woodbury with original woodbury type prints from 1875. These are woodbury type prints that are in principle the same as carbon prints, just the process is different.

A book by Woodbury with original woodbury type prints from 1875.

But ever since I’ve seen original woodburytypes I knew the process is really special and worth reviving because of two reasons. It is still the best printing process of photographs ever invented and it’s still the most archival printing process ever invented! Two reasons are enough?

n last hundred or so years there were few attempts to do woodburytype process but let me highlight only Oliver Barret who even wrote a book about the inventor. You may see him printing a woodburytype print at the link bellow. Also Paul Bloomfield published a video about his woodburytpe process. Although the results of modern woodburytypes, that I’ve managed to see on Internet are not a match to the quality of 19th Century’s woodburytypes, I was not discouraged.

Because I do not have an access to a powerful press, my starting premise was that I need to bypass the need for huge press machines. Mark Osterman told me about Stannotype and even was kind enough to send me instruction manual from 19th Century on the topic of Stannotype, but in the manuals there were only general principals how to do Stannotype. I’ve ditched all the historical manuals from 19th Century and decided it to follow the long path of trial and error. I knew what am I looking for and with many trial & error I’ve learned what works and what does not.

image3-4

Relief of pigmented gelatine from which a mould is made. For authentic woodburytype the relief was imprinted in lead plate.

I’ve started with the knowledge I got from Mark Osterman on carbon printing and then slowly changing the parameters until I’ve successfully made a huge relief of pigmented gelatine, that was also technically perfect. Not a single stone in the process was not left unturned, I finished with completely new receipts and methods. But it works! I must come up with the name of the process. How does topshitype sounds like! (joke)

I waited with announcement on my blog about my re-invention because I wanted to print this landscape carbon print motif, but the process demands preciseness and the preciseness demands time, which I didn’t had, so I’ve ruined the carbon print and the intaglio. Now it will take another two weeks to make new intaglio, but then I can print many prints in an hour.

Jane Fonda (b. 1937) three-color Carbro. Dated March 3, 1960. 526 x 432 mm. (http://www.photoconservation.com/)

Jane Fonda (b. 1937) three-color Carbro. Dated March 3, 1960. 526 x 432 mm. (http://www.photoconservation.com/)

My vision is to make a printing house that will print books in “woodburytype” process. I know that with the help of robotisation the printing house can deliver books that will be unprecedented quality. At the moment I’m making my “woodburytypes” with analogue photography, but I already have plans how to print digital files. (No, the digital negative is not the answer!) Also I have a theory how to make colour woodburytypes. If you ever seen carbro three-color photographs – IN PERSON – then you know that they are the best colour photographs your eyes has ever look upon! And on top of that it’s the most archival photographical process, it does not fade!!!

OK, Internet, I haven’t apply or receive any grants for more then a decade, but now I would need to get my back covered, because I need time to continue the research. Could you please send me a tip who would be interested in this kind of research and this vision of mine? You can leave a comment or send me an email to borutpeterlin@gmail.com

5 Responses

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  1. Great stuffy…saw some of these in a museum once and they were stunning. Read about the process and it was daunting. Well done

    Gerry Yaum

    22 March, 2016 at 14:14

  2. That’s quite impressive – would be wonderful to see this processes available again to others! I haven’t seen one in before but just say my first Cibachrome and was impressed… some of these historical printing processes definitely have their value and we are currently missing out!

    brianwiese

    23 March, 2016 at 06:47

  3. Looks good Borut! Never seen one in person but I want to now.

    Mike Lusmore

    23 March, 2016 at 10:25

  4. Are the videos for the woodburytype offline now or hidden? Would live to review again and share your work with others!

    brianwiese

    2 July, 2016 at 18:42

  5. Oh – I see the videos load now. I was looking for a video of you using your press process – I thought there was one.

    brianwiese

    2 July, 2016 at 18:50


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