The Light Farm

1. Silver Gelatin P.O.P. Collaborative Research Project — Introduction

May 19, 2020

Today is the first day of what I hope will be a fruitful collaborative project to investigate and refine silver gelatin printing-out paper, commonly called P.O.P. or POP. Printing-out paper is a generic category. It includes any of the historical or modern alternative contact printing processes that require UV light for exposure. By their nature they are too slow for enlarging. Although there are many printing-out processes, by convention they are referred to by their primary components or color; for example: carbon, gum, albumen, salted paper, Van Dyke brown, platinum, and cyanotype (a few of the most common). Two types of papers are referred to as POP — collodion POP and silver gelatin POP. We are interested here in silver gelatin POP, usually shortened to simply POP.

Silver gelatin POP was immensely popular in its day. There were several commercial papers available, but many photographers made their own papers. There was almost as many techniques and "tricks" as there were photographers. Our mission is to recreate those times and bring the mastery of silver gelatin POP forward into the future.


The Light Farm website began in February 2008. It was the successor to my "Adventures in Emulsion-Making" blog, started two years earlier, immediately after I took Ron Mowrey's first workshop at Photographers' Formulary. The workshop was both profoundly inspirational and a bit of a disappointment. I had expected that more progress had been made in handmade emulsion making, but the disappointment was mostly that there was so little interest from the other participants in continuing what we had started. The blog was my attempt to keep the energy alive. Today, that would happen on Facebook, but in 2006 social media was in its infancy. As is so often the case with writing, we write mainly to ourselves, but hope we connect with others. Writing about my R&D, the frustrations the victories, kept me excited and engaged.

In 2008, only a small handful of people were making emulsions. And, suffice to say, our results were rudimentary at best. The joy of being in at the beginning of something with broad and deep potential is that the victories come fast and furious. Anything that doesn't abjectly fail is essentially a success! The first contributors to The Light Farm openly shared their work and excitement. I took great delight in that. I think others did too.

Today, I don't even know how many people are making silver gelatin emulsion materials. I do know that several are creating extraordinarily beautiful art with their own emulsions or with dry plates manufactured by Jason Lane. The knowledge and experience of today's emulsion makers would have seemed a pipe dream fifteen years ago.


Long story short: I think it's high time for more collaborative projects. The bare bones of most processes have been worked out. The next level is going deeper into the details and nuances. POP seems like the ideal first project.

Several years ago, I wrote extensively on The Light Farm (TLF) about the background of silver gelatin POP and my work with one handmade recipe. That information became a chapter in my Focal Press book about handmade silver gelatin paper. It is now copyrighted by Routledge and therefore removed from TLF. Radoslaw Brzozowski wrote an additional, and excellent, POP chapter for the book. Anyone interested in that information can purchase the book or e-book, but the goals of this project shouldn't make that necessary. Hopefully, the information here will be self-contained and allow both contributors and the interested audience to learn about making and using POP paper with the technical control most serious photographers expect from our tools and materials.

This is a work-in-progress in more ways than one. Right now, it's my thought that contributors post on my Facebook page (The Light Farm) and The Light Farm website, in addition to any other relevant FB page or social media site. Details of how we achieve cross-platform postings can be worked out as we go. My first inclination, always, is keep it simple. Denise Ross

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