One of my favorite aspects of Darkroom photography is its experimental side, in this case experimentation with liquid emulsion, also know as liquid light. Liquid emulaion is a process through which you can transfer photograph's onto almost any medium. It allows you to set no limits with your photography, exposing onto fine art paper, wood, fabric, metal, glass etc. You could even expose onto canvas over a painting or digital Giclee printing (for info on canvas printing see http://www.canadaoncanvas.com/.
The Great Picture, seen below, is the result of a 9-month project involving 6 artists and 400 volunteers. The negative image is 3,375 square feet and dominates the aircraft hanger in Southern California where it was shot. It required more than 80 quarts of Liquid Light emulsion. This project displaying the limitless ends to liquid light.
You can order liquid emulsion form plenty of different websites and compared to the cost of photography paper it is not that unreasonable. Here are some rough guidelines for the liquid light process:
- first you will need your film negative or alternatively a pin hole camera.
- in the darkoom melt the emulsion by placing the bottle in a hot water bath, should only take a few minutes to melt.
- using a brush or sponge evenly coat your medium with a thin layer of emulsion, remembering to coat test strips in the same medium too as the exposure time will differ from material to material. Allow to dry, best left to dry in the absolute dark as opposed to under a safe light.
- once dry use your test strips to determine the exposure time and expose away! I found when working on fabric that the exposure time was greatly increased.
- develop as you would photographic paper except give it extra time in each tray. As the emulsion will soak into the mediums it will need to be in the developer longer to fully develop and if not left in the fix for long enough will keep developing once exposed to light.
- leave to dry
My favorite artists who use liquid emulsion in their work are the Starn Twins. Left is a piece their “Attracted to Light” series in which they turn bug close-ups into large scale photo-montages.