Roger Kockaerts makes Palladium triplets: The World of Random Nucleation

Roger Kockaerts explains his way of working with Palladium prints to create his beautiful abstract prints.

Writer and photography / Roger Kockaerts

Palladium triplet by Roger Kockaerts
Palladium triplet by Roger Kockaerts

The different chemical baths used in photography are mostly constituted by dry crystals of different chemical origin diluted in water in order to obtain a colorless liquid. These transparent baths offer a rather monotonous vision in their plastic scales as long as the water content remains sufficiently high. However, if the water level drops, we will observe a phenomenon of random apparition of crystals differing radically from the dry chemicals we diluted into a liquid state. We observe the process of crystallization.

Crystallization is a change which conducts mineral products from a liquid phase into a solid crystalline state with an organized and regular structure. The formation of these crystals is a phenomenon called nucleation and supposes an oversaturated liquid phase. An oversaturated liquid precipitates or crystallizes at the least perturbation.

In order to obtain an oversaturated solution, it will be necessary to warm the solvent while dissolving a maximum of chemical matter then cool the solution as slowly as possible. In the cooling, or nucleation process, crystals will appear in an apparently random order.

Palladium triplet by Roger Kockaerts
Palladium triplet by Roger Kockaerts

By fixing a small amount of a given photographic bath on a glass slide for microscopic examination we observe the crystallization process and, eventually, enlarge an interesting pattern with the normal photographic enlarger onto a film emulsion, in order to obtain an image that can be exploited by any photographic process, for its abstract nature.

Step by step procedure

  1. A small amount of the photographic bath (developer, fixer, toner, …) is put onto a small glass plate.
  2. The liquid is allowed to evaporate slowly.
  3. Crystallisation appears.
  4. The glass plate is put into the photographic enlarger and enlarged to the appropriate (9x12cm) dimensions.
  5. Printing of the the enlarged portion on a film emulsion.
  6. This emulsion is used as a negative and printed with the palladium contact printing process.
  7. Three selected prints are mounted as triplets on archival cardboard.
Palladium triplet by Roger Kockaerts
Palladium triplet by Roger Kockaerts

In our ongoing project we printed a series of these crystallization images and grouped these into triptychs. The palladium process was chosen for its qualities which prints the image right into the paper structure and obtain a matte surface structure with sparkling whites and the full range of densities up to intense black. The triple images may be observed in horizontal as well as vertical positions.

No titles are given as the project has to be examined as a whole rather than a collection of individual images of the world of random nucleation in analog photographic baths.

Roger Kockaerts is a Belgian artist. You can see Roger Kockaerts’ gallery here.

Leave a Comment