Sunday, October 9, 2011

how to make orotones (i hope)

A few weeks ago, two friends and I went to the Photo Antiquities Museum. If you live in, or near, or plan to visit Pittsburgh, you should absolutely go. I thought it would be sort of meh to be honest, but somehow they have packed SHEER AMAZINGNESS into a space barely bigger than my apartment. 

Three things in particular left me feeling as if I'd been smacked in the face with a fish, but in a good way. 

1. The bakery across the street, which has the best cookies I have ever had and would be good for luring non-photographers to accompany you to the museum.

2. The glass plate stereograms, which give such a 3D effect that you'd swear you could walk right into them. More so than 3D movies. More so than anything except real life. 

3. The orotones. I went from knowing absolutely zippo about orotones to wanting to make them in about five minutes. And, once I'd thought about it, it didn't seem like it would be that hard. 

From the wikipedia entry:
An orotone photograph is created by printing a positive on a glass plate precoated with a silver gelatin emulsion. Following exposure and development, the emulsion is coated with banana oil impregnated with gold colored pigment, to yield a gold-toned image.

Which is all true, but doesn't really capture the result, which is a glittering depth that is almost-but-not-really 3D and makes you feel like you're looking into something rather than merely at it. The man giving the tour compared it to the depth you get with a glittery paint on a car, which is accurate, if less poetic than I'd like.

1. A piece of glass
2. Liquid Light 
3. Powered gelatin and water to prep it for the Liquid Light
4. Some kind of gold for the back (I ended up with something called Brush n Leaf, we'll see how that works)
5. A brush
6. Laundry detergent 

The laundry detergent is to clean the glass so the gelatin will stick. According to Rockland Colloid's site, other soaps have oils in them, and the glass needs to be "chemically clean." 

I got the glass from the art store - they frame things there and cut a 6in square piece for me. 

The other bottle is paint thinner, to the clean the Brush n Leaf out of the brush.

(click to embiggen! the gelatin texture in the second pic is really cool.)

Their instructions for coating the glass with gelatin are here. Basically, you dump 1 tsp of powdered gelatin into 2 cups of cold water, wait 15 minutes, heat it while stirring to about 140 degrees (F) until the gelatin is dissolved, and pour it evenly over the glass. 

I did. It was easy. I didn't even cut myself! (I'm still not sure what to do about the sharp edges of the glass.) You can see in the last picture how the gelatin gets sort of thick and drippy on the glass, and it's left a drip line on mine that I will no doubt regret. Apart from that though, once it dries, it's completely invisible. 

...Someone remind me to mark which side of the glass is which. 

Next step, Liquid Light! 

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