William Williams, Maori Head, Napier Harbour late 1880s.
ATL, E.R. Williams Collection, Ref.1/1-025820-G. Realised as albumen print by Wayne Barrar 2014
Young Country, an exhibition of poems by Kerry Hines with photographs by 19th-century photographer William Williams, will be shown at Mahara Gallery, Waikanae, 1 Nov-14 Dec 2014.
Williams’s principal archive, held by the Alexander Turnbull Library in Wellington, consists mainly of negatives. For this exhibition, Kerry obtained permission for me to make albumen prints of some of his images with the intention of presenting photographs in close material and visual proximity to the prints Williams would have produced in the 1880s. Unlike many current exhibitions incorporating ‘historical’ works, these are of comparative scale, tone and aesthetic feel to the work of that period.
The process of making the albumen prints required a number of material and procedural decisions relating to issues such as choice of paper stock, coating methods and gold toning strategies – as well as the direct use of dozens of eggs (source of the albumen) and silver nitrate baths. While essentially true to historical method, my workflow included one distinctly current practice: the use of digital negatives, using the Quad Tone Rip system, which enabled me to use the Turnbull’s scans of the negatives, avoiding the need to deal directly with the archival glass plate negatives themselves.
Further information on the show, accompanying events, and Kerry’s book Young Country (published by Auckland University Press, November 2014) is available at her website. As part of the events programme, I will be providing a talk on working with historical photographs and the albumen printing process at Mahara Gallery at 2pm, Sunday 30 November. Additional information will be posted nearer the time.
A selection of my own work in albumen and albumenised salt prints can be seen here.