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Elizabeth Opalenik

Iris Ii – Mordançage

Elizabeth Opalenik Mordençage Iris II
Elizabeth Opalenik Mordençage Iris II

The Mordançage process works by chemically bleaching the print so that it can be redeveloped, lifting the black areas of the emulsion away from the paper giving the appearance of veils. The lifted emulsion can be removed or manipulated. Originally called bleach-etch, the process was used to turn film negatives into positives as far back as 1897. In the 1950s Jean Pierre Sudre brought it to perfection on the gelatin silver print and coined the term “Mordançage” Elizabeth Opalenik continued to perfect the process to become the world authority on the process.

About Elizabeth Opalenik USA.  I began my Mordançage journey in Provence when I met Jean-Pierre Sudre. After seeing his work for the first time in 1983, I knew I had come home photographically.  Annual visits to Sudre’s atelier to share his work with other students helped to form a lifelong bond. 

After 30 years of visits, I am still in awe. In 1991, he offered a workshop in the process to seven Americans and I was lucky enough to learn Mordançage directly from this master.  The formulas and practices that I share started with that workshop and the dedication Sudre had to perfecting the mordançage technique. 

With any creative process, the goal is to make it your own. By print five, I was attempting to save the veils much to Sudre’s surprise. “No, no, no Elisabeth! I thought you would be the easiest student!” By the end of the week, he was asking for my notes. But I learned the tools first.