Aliyah #3, Salt Test Print of my "Muses" Series


Aliyah #3, Salt Test Print of my "Muses" Series


Salt Test Print in the size of 23x50cm on Arches Aquarelle. Signed.

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Salt Test Print in the size of 23x50cm on Arches Aquarelle. Signed.


Since Aristotle (384-322 BC) there is evidence that men and women have explored the relationship between light and chemicals. Remarkably, it took until 1834 before William Henry Fox Talbot discovered the process of permanent chemically produced images created by light. His salted-paper prints were the first photographic process to create a positive image from a negative. Talbot’s photogenic drawings and his continual discoveries had a profound effect on both photography and the development of printmaking.

William Henry Fox Talbot (1800-1870) came from a privileged background. He was well educated, had a brilliant mind and was curious about the world around him. Fortunately for historians and photographic researchers Talbot documented most of his experiments.

In 1833 Talbot was on holiday in Italy with his new wife and family members. He became frustrated with his inability to sketch on paper. Even with the aid of his drawing instrument, a camera lucida, he could not capture the beauty of Lake Como. Utilizing his knowledge of chemistry he pondered ways of “fixing” an image on paper. By spring 1834 Talbot’s ponderings became reality. He found the ratio between salt and silver nitrate that was essential to create and ‘stabilize’ an image. Talbot’s discovery of the salt print inspired the foundation for many future photographic processes.

In 1839 with the assistance of his colleague, Sir John Herschel, Talbot was able to ‘fix’ this image permanently on paper. 

The history of Talbot and his inventions is quite remarkable. His discoveries were the foundation of the photographic processes until today. 


Salt printing is a hand-coated two-step process. First, the salt solution is applied to the paper and allowed to dry. Next is the sensitizing step when a silver nitrate solution is applied to the paper to form light sensitive silver chloride. Exposure to light changes the silver chloride to the image making metallic silver.

Due to the inherent masking ability of the metallic silver the salt print can create a greater tonal range than any other photographic processes and makes it to one of the the finest and nobel printing process.  Even it seems to be one of the simplest photographic processes, it is one of the most difficult to control the outcome. However the intrinsic production problems have made it a 'forgotten' process. 


The salt prints of Jan C Schlegel are done in the tradition of William Henry Fox Talbot and uses the same chemical compounds. The noble 100% cotton paper, together with carefully handled fixage through Ammonium Thiosulfate and a slightly gold borax toning followed by a two hours wash give the salt print a maximum durability. 

Today you can find in museums (like in the Getty Museum in Los Angeles) the original salt prints made by Talbot without any sign of fading or altering.