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Electroplating an Image

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  • Electroplating an Image

    Hello all,

    I am a photography major at a college in northwestern wyoming.

    I have a theory which i would like some input on:

    There is a traditional silver-based photographic method called "gum bichromate" gum bichromate involves a pigmented gum arabic layer sensitized with a hardening agent, usually silver nitrate and is exposed under a UV source. The unexposed area is washed away leaving the pigmented regions behind, thus, a photographic image.

    as i was laying in bed i thought back to a feable attempt when I was about 16 to transfer a silver gelatine print using electroplating, and began to think about gum arabic at the same moment. I thought to myself what if i took a sensitized gum arabic layer and [somehow] adhered it to a metal plate which oxidizes to a dark color, such as iron, bronze or steel and electroplated the unexposed (washed out) regions with a highly shiney, non-tarnishing metal such as platinum, palladium, zinc or even gold? The gum arabic would act as a mask. The sensitized image would then be washed away using turpentine and the substrate (steel, bronze or iron) would be oxidized to it's maximum.

    Even if no tarnish can be on the substrait prior to plating, it can be left to oxidize aftewards as the gum arabic layer would be washed off under a solvent.

    Because the image is not made up of light sensitive grains, but rather chemically fused bits of plated metal, the image would not be subject to photographic conditions and less subseptable to atmospheric conditions as the plating and the substrate is less subseptable to enviomental factors.

    Because the tarnish would only become darker over time, the image will not fade, but rather improve in contrast.

    While the white point would be reflective, I do not intend the process to be for general photography, but rather an alternative process.

    Now, my question. I think, photographicly speaking it is a sound idea. Photographs are made of tiny black or white grains and not actual shades of grey, tonality should not be an issue. However, I am not sure about the practical. For one, will my gum arabic/silver nitrate mask keep the substrate from plating? Also I know how expensive even platinum is, to make an 8x10" print would cost well over $300 for the anode alone if foil is to be used, and palladium isn't too much less than Gold, which is also expensive. I have not looked into nickle or zinc yet (any other options? I can reverse the exposure and plate a shiney metal with a "dark" one. How does brass tarnish?)...

    If i were to go with nickle or zinc, what would be the very basic chemicals I would need to yeild an image, if not a bright image? Lastly, once I have an image, how can improve the brightness of the plated metal, what chemicals would be needed, less buying an entire kit?

    Thanks for your time and interest!
    -shawn kearney-
    [email protected]