Tips from an expert on a ‘mysterious’ photographic process
I was waiting in line at Balzac’s – a wonderful coffee house in Toronto’s historic Distillery District – looking at the last delicious danish pastry, hoping that the tall man in front of me is not going to …
“Don’t worry”, he says, smiling. “It’s got YOUR name on it.”
“Thanks! You look like a Swiss friend of mine.”
“I used to live in Germany about 40 years ago.”
“Oh, a small town with a beautiful castle – Auerbach, have you ever heard of it?”
“I grew up there!”
V. Tony Hauser is one of Canada’s foremost portrait photographers. He works with antique large-format cameras in black and white for aesthetic qualities and permanence. Hauser’s fine art work is in platinum – “the most permanent and luminous of the photographic processes”, he says. “This old process of hand-coating platinum metals onto fine art papers creates the most enduring and luminous photographs.”
V. Tony Hauser – who has several bodies of work, including nudes, travel, dance, and indigenous peoples – travelled to Kenya several times, documenting the humanitarian work of Canada’s most inspired international, youth-motivated aid organization “Free the Children”.
Attracted by the complex customs of various African tribes Hauser became acquainted with traditional Maasai villagers who eventually invited him to their homes to be photographed. “I was intrigued by the Maasai’s regal poise and serenity”, says Hauser, who began to make portraits with both modern and antique cameras. The results are stunning, showing intimate, engaging and elegant images of tribal chiefs, elders, families and children or young ‘warriors’ at the brink of manhood.
V. Tony Hauser’s photographs are included in permanent collections of the National Archives of Canada, the Stratford Festival, the Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography and numerous private collections around the world.
————————- INTERVIEW ————————-
As V. Tony and I sit over a cup of coffee, I get to ask him a few questions regarding the process of platinum printing – a monochrome printing process that provides the greatest tonal range of any printing method using chemical development, and the most durable results.
Question: V. Tony Hauser – you are an expert in platinum printing. How did it all start?
Hauser: Almost 20 years ago, I hired a photography student from Ryerson University – David Black – who suggested one day that I should make some platinum prints. I told him that it sounded expensive, but intriguing and if he wanted to do some research, we could give it a shot. He found out various ways of this early photographic and often described as “mysterious” printing technique. We ordered pure platinum solutions at outrageous costs (for my budget) and spent a year making 9 beautiful prints in sizes 11 x 14 to 14 x 17 inches.
Is platinum printing an expensive technique?
Hauser: Yes, it is. By the time we finished the prints, we had already spent some $ 15,000 – but I was hooked! I ended up participating in three intensive workshops to learn more about the whole process, and mostly how to be a more cost efficient platinum printer.
What is your advice for beginners?
Hauser: Don’t start out making large prints – the kind I overzealously attempted. Make prints from 4 x 5 or even smaller negatives, and make them with Palladium only. Palladium is a sister metal to platinum – it is usually less expensive and renders equally beautiful archival prints. I suggest to contact Bostick & Sullivan in Santa Fe, New Mexico, who can sell you a starter kit with printing instructions.
Do you offer workshops in platinum printing?
Hauser: I will give workshops to individuals upon request, but my current dark room does not allow me to have more than one student at a time – it’s a space issue. I have been approached to do workshops with groups up to six and would be willing to arrange such a workshop. It could be done in a lodge in Ontario, at a lovely setting. It could be a three day workshop where on day one participants could possibly make an image, preferably in film with a camera bigger than 35 mm. On day two and three the participants would all get a chance to learn hand coating techniques and printing their image(s).
Are you also available for lectures?
Hauser: Absolutely. I have done many lectures on platinum printing and various aspects of photography and am available to such requests from time to time.
V. Tony Hauser – thank you for sharing this information with my readers.
More about the Secrets of platinum printing:
About V. Tony Hauser