Oyster Portraits, 2020, Salted Paper Prints

The oysters (Crassostrea virginica) in these gold-toned 4” x 6” salted paper prints were harvested from the Stono River in West Ashley.  Oysters provide biofiltration and are important members of estuary ecosystems. As oysters feed, they clean the water by filtering out organic and inorganic particles, like carbon dioxide. Oyster beds provide habitat and food for many vertebrates and invertebrates, and also help prevent erosion.

Salted paper prints require salt for coating the paper and processing the image. Salt water was removed from the Stono River, dehydrated in a Pyrex beaker while heated on a hot plate, and used as follows:  20 grams of this salt were used in the paper salting solution; 200 g of this salt were used in the 5% salted water wash. Developing the salted paper print involves the use of 9 separate chemical baths and a 30 minute final wash. The process was invented by Henry Fox Talbot in 1839 and was the first type of paper print used in photography.