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Glass Plate Orotones

‘Ophelia' Glass Plate Orotone

What are Orotones?

Orotone plates were a derivitive of the early analogue processes from the 1850's. Many people will know that when photography started, images were produced in large, bulky cameras and practitioners had to make all their own chemicals and produce negatives on glass plates in a mobile darkroom . This is however, very cumbersome and difficult when working on location like in a landscape.

The advent of the dry plate process meant that images still had to be taken on large cameras, but all the glass plates could be processed back at their studios meaning much less equipment had to be carted all over the country side. This however, still meant that images were in negative form and prints had to be made the correct way by printing them out to a paper format. They were also still in black and white.

In an effort to brighten images glass plates were copied to make them positive and then got their 'colour'. Orotone is simply a method of introducing a gold or yellow tone into the image giving it a completely different appeal.

How are they produced?

In my process I have brought the means by which they are produced into the 21st centuary. This is where digital meets analogue.....The process still involves the use of sensitised glass plates which are exposed using a contact negative. Using a digital camera (altogether far more convenient), take any image you want to reproduce and then pass it through the computer to produce a negative image in monochrome.

The image is then printed using a desktop printer onto transparency to make a contact negative. Using a sensitised glass plate, the negative is printed out in a darkroom so that the image is the right way around when viewed from the front using standard darkroom chemicals.


The final part of the orotone process is to give it its colour. I use a substance called Paraloid-B72 resin with gold coloured mica particles or metal flake, which is poured over the glass plate to seal it and give it its finished look.

RPS Fellow Logo

I'm proud to have resurrected this historic art form and have recently been awarded a Fellowship with the RPS for my work in Visual Arts using the Orotone process. Whilst some say why bother! I can honestly say I have brought the past into the present, maintaing the craft of the photographer and artist in a handcrafted presentation that is unique in its own right.

‘Lone Tree’ Glass Plate Orotone
‘Breakfast in America’ Glass Plate Orotone
Contact Negative
’Sculptural Intimacy’ Glass Plate Orotone
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