“Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated. When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.”
Wilson Bentley, 1925
Over a century ago a nineteen-year-old Vermont farm boy named Wilson Alwyn Bentley began a 46-year love affair with the typology of snow crystals. A century after Bentley, I began a love affair with the historic bleach-etch process and at the same time came upon Bentley’s snow crystal book. Bentley’s beautiful snow crystals swimming in a sea of black were ripe for this bleach-etch process. How was I to make this happen, since these images were not my own?
The bleach-etch process is more difficult to explain than to demonstrate. The process, was initially used to turn film negatives into positives for lantern slide projection. A Frenchman named Jean-Pierre Sudre turned the process into an art form on photographic paper instead of film. Sudre originated the exotic name ‘mordançage’ and ‘bleach-etch’ was lost to history.