'View of Unidentified Harbour'
Salt paper print
Museum no. PH.43-1983
This image is an example of a salt print. Salt prints, the earliest paper prints, were normally made by contact printing, usually from paper negatives (calotypes) but occasionally from collodion negatives on glass. Invented by W.H. Fox Talbot in 1840, salt prints were a direct outgrowth of his earlier photogenic drawing process.
A finished salt print is matt in tone, reddish brown in colour, and has no surface gloss. If toned it is purplish brown; if faded, yellowish brown. Its highlights are usually white. Salt prints were made until about 1860, although in decreasing numbers after the advent of the albumen print in 1851.
A salt print was made by sensitising a sheet of paper in a solution of salt (sodium chloride) and then coating it on one side only with silver nitrate. Light-sensitive silver chloride was thus formed in the paper. After drying, the paper was put sensitive side up directly beneath a negative under a sheet of glass in a printing frame. This paper-negative-glass sandwich was exposed glass side up, outdoors in sunlight, i.e. it was contact printed.
The length of the exposure, up to two hours, was determined by visual inspection. When the print had reached the desired intensity it was removed from the frame and fixed with sodium thiosulphate, at that time called hyposulphate of soda ('hypo'), which stopped the chemical reaction. It was then thoroughly washed and dried. The print could be toned with gold chloride for greater permanence and richer tone. Gordon Baldwin, 'Looking at Photographs', J. Paul Getty Museum, 1991
W .H. Fox Talbot
This photograph can be found in Print Room Box 12.