Salted Paper Print

What distinguishes salted paper prints from photogenic drawings is the fact that they were fixed. Sir John Herschel introduced the technique of removing the unexposed halides so the image would not continue to print out (rather than simply making the image less sensitive as with photogenic drawings). Photographers traditionally fixed positive images with a solution of hyposulfite of soda or “hypo,” which removed the unexposed silver chloride. If the print was properly washed, the technique rendered the resulting image reasonably stable and allowed prints to be exposed to daylight without further darkening.

Salted paper prints were created from photogenic drawing negatives, calotype negatives, paper negatives, and eventually glass plate negatives. Salted paper prints produced from paper-based negatives have a grainy appearance. Even those printed from waxed paper negatives, which make paper fibers less visible, exhibit some paper fibers.

Photographers experimented in various ways to create a sharper image using glass plate negatives. Early attempts included crystalotypes, introduced by John Adams Whipple, in which salted paper prints were created from albumen on glass negatives. While the process resulted in images with finer detail, it proved to be a complicated one. By the early 1850s, the majority of salted paper prints were produced from collodion on glass negatives. The smooth surface and high resolution of the collodion plates rendered far sharper prints than those made from paper-based negatives.

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"Jeffries Wyman, M.D., Hersey Professor of Anatomy," John Adams Whipple, salted paper print, 1858, Harvard University Archives