Welcome to the SATURATED COLOR WORLD of late-Meiji-era, Japanese hand-colored Salt Prints.

Many of the photos seen in this set appear have been picked up and used all over the Web. Many years ago, the HUFFINGTON POST republished quite a number of them, and they were re-Blogged in turn by others. If you see one of these somewhere else on the Web, and it's missing a link back to Flickr, please remember that the images originated here, and NOT the other way around !

Salt Prints ? Wait a minute...didn't they go out of style back in the 1860s ? Well, maybe in your neck of the woods they did, but in Japan, they experienced a revival at the end of the 19th Century extending till about 1910.

From large albumen prints to penny postcards, Salt Prints were the way to go for many commercial photographers, and in this Flickr Set, you are treated to a broad sampling of them.

Most of pics shown here were printed over 100 years ago from ca.1880s-90s full-plate negatives. They were exposed by sunlight on simple "salted paper", and hand-tinted with transparent water colors by Japanese colorists.

The process harks back to the very beginning of photography when Fox Talbot of England introduced the first commercially viable paper based photographic process to the world (but held himself and the world up with his jealously guarded patents).

Although the first prints were made from waxed PAPER NEGATIVES called 'Calotypes", these "Revival Salt Prints" seen in the prints posted here were made with GLASS NEGATIVES, and sometimes called "Crystalotypes"

The print paper had no thick, smooth emulsion layer, and was developed right into the silver-sensitized fibers of the PLAIN PAPER they used. A bit of gelatin was dissolved in the salt water bath used to prepare the paper, acting as a binder of sorts that would keep the [later] sensitized silver salts in the upper, convoluted, matte surface fibers of the paper.

As the tinting was applied, it soaked immediately into the upper fibers and rough areas of the paper, living up to the literal meaning of SATURATED color. However, the small amount of gelatin in the paper prevented the dyes from soaking through to the other side. As you can see here, both the photograph and color that "saturated" [the upper parts of] the paper have remained rich and vibrant.

However, a few photographers who also went down the salt print road were not so lucky. Poor processing and underexposed images tended to have fading problems. That being said, a well done Salt Print is a beauty to behold.

[NOTE : The salt solution that was applied to the rough, "plain paper" of these Japanese images contained a small amount of gelatin --- perhaps 2 grams per liter or so, an amount mentioned in some old formulas. It would have been enough to invisibly bind and hold the salt in the upper fibers of the paper once dry, maintain the fiberous, matte texture, and not produce a glossy emulsion layer on top of the paper. This way, the print would maintain better sharpness (rather than going too deep and "fuzzy"), and applied tints would go in and around the contours of the rough, upper surface fibers, while not actually soaking through to the other side of the paper. ]
78 photos · 15,907 views