MAKING PHOTOS THAT WILL LAST 1000 YEARS
I had a collector who owns a few of the very famous Irving Penn dye transfers and platinum palladium prints. I remember seeing the quality and thinking, ‘What is this type of print?’ It turns out it’s the highest quality of color and black and white printing that exists in the world. The only problem is that Kodak, without any warning, stopped making the chemicals for it in the 90s. A few people bought up what was left, including one of Irving Penn’s previous printers. So, I tracked him down.
Los Angeles-based photographer Tyler Shields wasn’t sure how long the remainder of the chemicals needed for making dye transfers and platinum palladium prints would last. Cared for properly, these prints can last for hundreds of years without color fading or loss of quality. “If I have the chance to make something that can last up to a thousand years, I’d be a fool not to do it. I wanted to have a piece of that history,” says Tyler. Using his Hasselblad 503CW, Tyler did just that.
DYE TRANSFER PRINTING
Dye transfer prints are renowned for their outstanding color depth and stunning quality that is unlike anything else. Starting out as a black and white print, the colors are individually hand rolled on with film-like sheets called matrix film that is soaked in tubs of cyan, magenta, and yellow dyes. Requiring extreme precision every step of the way, if any of the matrix film is off by the tiniest millimeter when being rolled onto the final image, the whole photo is ruined.
Orchestrating these images to be specific dye transfer photos, Tyler wanted to test the richness of color with the luscious, painted red lips and the various tones and shadows in Catwoman. “Once I saw the final print, I finally understood that there’s nothing else that has this look to it. I didn’t even get the Red Lips print out of the studio before it was purchased,” explains Tyler.
PLATINUM PALLADIUM PRINTING
Not only are platinum palladium prints known to last for a thousand years, but each print is a unique piece of art with beautifully deep monochrome shades. In short, the necessary chemicals are mixed and “painted” onto the printing paper. After the paper has had time to dry, the film negative is put on top, and together, they are placed in a special UV light machine. Afterwards, the image is put in a tub of water and the chemicals used to develop the image are thrown onto the paper. The image develops immediately.
For the platinum palladium print, I took the portrait of the lady in the swim camp. I found a swim cap from the 40s that had never been opened. It would be more authentic I thought; I wanted that photo to literally look like it could have been taken in the 20s or 30s. The print does something to the image. It gives it something special. You don’t understand it until you do it.
ABOUT TYLER SHIELDS
Starting out as a pro rollerblader in his youth, Los Angeles-based image creator Tyler Shields traded in his skates for a camera and started to film and photograph skaters and create music videos when he was 17. As he began to shoot more and more, he looked into the top of the line camera and came across Hasselblad. “If it’s good enough for the moon, it’s good enough for me,” said Tyler about his first Hasselblad 500C. Exploding cars, covering models in paint, and hanging out of a window on the fourteenth floor of a hotel are normal days of work for this raw, innovative artist who goes to any lengths to get his shot. See more of Tyler’s work here.