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Platinum prints are made by a monochrome printing process to provide the greatest tonal range of any printing method using chemical development. Invented by William Willis in 1876, the process was revered by a group of photographers referred to as Pictorialists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries because of its delicate characteristics akin to more traditional fine art methods such as drawing and etching.
The platinum print process starts with a 100 percent cotton rag paper which is hand coated with a platinum or palladium salt solution and iron oxalate sensitizer. After the paper dries in heated air, it is exposed to intense ultraviolet light with a photographic negative.
The process of platinum printing practically disappeared during World War I when platinum was used for the war effort, but it became popular once more during the '60s. Favored by both photographers and collectors because of the overall surface quality, tonal range, and permanence, there are not many photographers around the world today who still use this delicate method of printing.
Platinum prints are the most durable of all photographic processes
The light required to create a platinum print is approximately one million times that needed for traditional black and white or color photography
In 2006, Robert Mapplethorpe's platinum print portrait of Andy Warhol on canvas sold for $643,000 at Christie's New York, making it the most expensive Mapplethorpe photograph ever sold at auction