What Is Albumen Printing?

Albumen printing was photography in the 1850s!

In today’s version of this process, I create a 16 x 20 negative transparency from either a scanned 8 x 10 negative or a digital capture. 

To obtain the albumen, dozens of eggs are cracked and the yolks separated from the whites. The whites are beaten to a stiff meringue and allowed to sit overnight. The albumen settles to the bottom of the jar as a beautiful pale yellow liquid. The meringue is removed, and the albumen allowed to age from one month to years. 

I then float Canson sketching paper on salted albumen solution and allow it to dry. This is the same paper used since the 1850s. Subsequently, the albumenized paper is floated on a 20% silver nitrate solution for three minutes. After floating, the coated paper is sensitive to light. The paper and the enlarged negative are sandwiched together and exposed to ultraviolet light in a vacuum frame. 

After washing to remove excess silver, the image is toned in a solution of gold chloride mixed with a small amount of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and washed. Two thiosulfate baths and a final wash follow.