Discussion in 'Black and White' started by adrian_seward, Dec 12, 2004.

  1. I found some photos in an antique store today that were marked as "orotype".

    Does anyone know anything about this? They were quite striking. They were about 4x5.
    I'm guessing that the image was applied to glass or metal. Overall, they were a sepia
    color. The blacks were fairly flat, but the highlights were mirror-like and metallic.
  2. I'm betting you've got an "aurotype" (which would be pronounced "orotype") a gold chloride print. One of a number of cyanide/iron based metal processes including platinum, paladium, silver, and just iron. If it's signed "Hunt", the word is "jackpot". Search for "Chrysotype" and you'll find a lot more info, even some formulas.

    Typical antique store, they hear a word and spell it wrong. What's worse, sometimes the misspelling propagates from store to store, collector to collector, publication to publication.

    Orotype is also what you get if you knock the first three letters off of "fluorotype", but I don't think that's what we're dealing with, here. Your description sounds like metal highlights.
  3. Hmmm...

    I've looked for info on aurotype and found almost none. I found a lot on chrysotype, and
    I'm not sure if that's what I saw-- particularly as it seems to have been an earlier process.
    What I found was the mass-produced pictures of the 1934 Chicago World's Fair.

    If I had to make a guess as to how they were made, I would say that it looked as though
    the image was applied to the back of the glass in the frame and a mirror was placed
    behind it. I'm not sure that it was continuous-tone. They had an etched, slightly 3-
    dimensional look. The blacks were pretty black, the highlights were brilliantly reflective,
    and the midtones were a gold-brown. I'll have to go back and look again-- I'll buy them if
    they're cheap. I was in a little bit of a hurry when I first saw them.
  4. That sounds like someone's way of custom marketing an ambrotype, which is actually a negative on glass, with black paper behind it. I've not taken a cased ambrotype apart to try and substitute a mirror behind it to see if it would work, but in theory it would. I'd question the timing of it as an ambrotype if it is the 1934 Worlds Fair, but you never know, there could have been some nut out there doing alternative process stuff a long time before it was called alternative processes.
  5. Orotype is a real print type - its most notable use was by Edward S. Curtis. He released
    some of his seminal native american photos using this process. It involved the use of real
    gold on glass as part of the printing process from what I understand. Andrew Smith gallery
    in Santa Fe had a few examples of Curtis orotypes the last time I visited. They are quite
    beautiful and very expensive.

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