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  • Writer's pictureChiara

Transfer methods

The pursuit for a somewhat photo-realistic method of reproduction that isn't a digital print continues. I'm looking for evidence of the materiality of the medium, while maintaining the documentary authority of a photograph.


Here are a couple of the things I tried.

- Gel-medium toner transfer: a photocopy or laser print adhered face down to the substrate with gel medium. After the gel medium is well dried, the copy paper is moistened and rubbed away.

The result is a mirror image formed by the toner which is trapped in the gel medium. The result is a faithful inversion of the photograph, but that's all it is. I had boosted the contrast/highlights/shadows in the original image before printing it out because I expected less fidelity of reproduction. There is some graininess from incompletely removed paper.


I've seen this method used to prepare lino for carving. It would certainly suit that purpose. As a medium in itself I don't find it convincing. It has all the precision of the digital photo without the subtlety. The materiality of the process is dominated by the gel medium which adds nothing of value to the image. Perhaps it could be used to add photographic elements to a collage background or to some other substrate that can't be accommodated by the printer. However, a flat substrate would be needed to successfully remove the backing paper.


- Oil of wintergreen toner transfer (Eucalyptus oil transfer is similar): a fresh toner image (photocopy or laser print) is placed face down on the substrate. A small amount of oil is applied to the back of the image paper with something like a cotton swab. Buffing with a baren achieves transfer of the image to the substrate.


The result is less faithful than the gel-medium method, in that darker tones are not as dense or consistent, so more of the paper white (of the substrate) comes through the image.


The only evidence of the materiality of the method is the lingering smell of the oil of wintergreen and oil-stains/blemishes on the substrate. Neither of these are desirable.


This method preserves the source print. Toner is simply released from the print paper by the application of oil and pressure. Release of any remaining toner can therefore be attempted for a ghost print.






There is still quite a lot of definition in the ghost print and no oil staining, since oil was not reapplied. It shows potential for applications where subtle hints of a photographic image are required.

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