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Kallitypes (Van Dyke Prints

By Amanda Tarlau

To begin with, "alternative processes" are not particularly difficult to do but take a lot of patience and perseverance. The term Alternative refers to the type of photographic processing which began the whole history of photography....before pre coated resin coated papers, before colour printing and ceratinly before computer generated images. This gentle art of recreating past techniques appealed to both my aesthetic senses as a photographer and an artist and I started compiling recipies and testing methods about 6 years ago, during my Diploma of Photography studies in Sydney, Australia.

Alternative processes are very varied and take a long time to master. To begin with I am going to talk about a type of Kallitype, which is commonly reffered to as a Van Dyke or Brown Print.

Kallitype is basically made up from silver nitrate and ferric salts, a very easy to mix solution once you find the ingredients. This mixture is then coated onto paper and left to dry. Then it is placed in contact with a large negative and clamped to a board with a sheet of glass sandwiching the lot together. This is then placed in the sun and left to develop rich dark brown tones. This exposure can take as little as 5 minutes or as much as an hour or two depending on how bright and direct the sun is. After this the paper is washed in plain water then fixed in a mixture of warm water and sodium thiosuphate then washed again. A hypo clearing agent can also be used.

The following is a recipe for Kallitypes which I gleaned from "The Keepers of Light" by William Crawford, a fantastic "bible" of alternative processes and the history of photography.

The Sensitzer

Solution A ~  
Distilled water                         33ml
Ferric ammonium citrate                 9 grams
Solution B ~
Distilled water                         33ml
Tartaric acid                           1.5 grams
Solution C ~
Distilled water                         33ml
Silver nitrate                          3.8 grams

After the solutions have dissolved, combine solutions A and B and then slowly add the silver nitrate solution while stirring.

This solution will remain good for a couple of years and ages well, like wine; the longer I've left mine, the deeper and richer the brown tone. Make sure you store it in a sealed brown bottle in a dark place.

When you're ready to coat, paper brush it on evenly using a foam brush so loose hairs don't ruin the finish. Coat the paper in normal tungsten room light. Dry the paper with a low setting hair dryer or in room temperature--the mixture will be yellow. Two thin coatings are better than one messy thick one.

Expose the paper as described above, using a negative or lith with good tonality and highlights.

Develop the print in running water for a minute then fix in a solution of warm water (500ml) and 25grams of sodium thiosulphate (which is a weak fixer) for about 5 minutes, no longer as it can lighten the print. (don't use normal fixer-it will bleach the prints). Then wash in running water for about 40 minutes, and dry with hair dryer if possible.

You should have a beautifully toned Kallitype and hopefully a passion to persevere!!!!

If you have any questions or feedback email me at

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