On Location
Santa Fe

The Beauty of Mordançage

with Elizabeth Opalenik

Online registration for this program has closed. To check availability, find out about future dates, or if you would like further information, please call 505-983-1400 ext. 111. Also, get the SFW E-Newsletter for updates!

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Course Description

Mordançage, one of the rarest and most beautiful of the alternative photographic processes has been brought back to life in large part due to the efforts of Elizabeth Opalenik. Created in the 1960s by Elizabeth’s mentor Jean Pierre Sudre, Mordançage alters silver gelatin photographs to give them a wonderfully elegant and degraded effect. The Mordançage solution works by chemically bleaching the print so that it can be redeveloped, lifting the black areas of the emulsion away from the paper which can give the appearance of veils. The lifted emulsion can be removed or manipulated, creating relief to the image. Each piece is unique. Saving the veils is Elizabeth’s contribution to the process and she is considered the master. 

In this hands-on workshop in Santa Fe, Elizabeth begins with a history of the Mordançage process and reviews the work of Jean Pierre Sudre, the French photographer that created the formula we use today. As her mentor and friend for over 15 years, Elizabeth learned the process directly in his Provence atelier where she also met Denis Brihat. Viewing their original work and other practitioners of Mordançage add valuable insight into directions for making it your own creative voice.

Through demonstrations by Elizabeth and then working together in the Workshops Alt Pro Lab, students mix chemistry, and begin to understand how to “read” test strips to discover proper exposures for film and digital negatives or photograms. Mordançage takes time to master, so our days are spent in the lab learning how to make the best digital negatives, testing various paper and redeveloper combinations, experimenting with oxidation and toners to alter color, hand painting, and then deciding to save or not to save the veils. Group discussions also focus on intent for the final image. 

After 32 years of committing to this beautiful process, Elizabeth shares possibilities, pitfalls, and discoveries that contribute to the most successful outcomes. By the end of this full workshop week, students have a solid foundation in Mordançage techniques to continue working at home.

Join us this summer for the final Mordançage workshop Elizabeth will teach, and discover the magic of this beautiful process.

Additional Information

COVID-19 Update: For all in-person workshops and trips in 2023, Santa Fe Workshops highly recommends that all participants, staff, and instructors attending be up to date with Covid vaccinations (per definition of the CDC).

Advanced Amateurs, Professionals
What You Should Know:

A working knowledge of darkroom techniques is essential for the most successful outcome. 

Activity Level:
To get the most from your workshop experience, participants should be in good physical (mobility, stamina) and mental health. Come prepared for the high elevation of Santa Fe, long days, and seasonal weather including high temperatures. You must be able to carry your own photographic and personal gear at all times, both on campus and on location. You are responsible for being open and honest about your physical fitness, and we reserve the right to remove you from the workshop if we find your fitness to be less than that which you have described.

Participants are responsible for making their own accommodation arrangements in Santa Fe. On-campus accommodations are not currently available.

Lunch Monday through Friday, dinner at the Friday evening Image Presentations, and daily beverage service.
Alternative Process, Darkroom, Fine Art, One-of-a-Kind
Elizabeth Opalenik

Elizabeth Opalenik is a fine-art photographer who brings a sense of wonder and possibility to students. Her heart is in philanthropic projects and working in her darkroom, where she creates one-of-a-kind images in the mordançage process, carbon and platinum printing. She mixes digital and traditional media when appropriate to maximize creative possibilities, using images as stepping stones to trace pathways of the mind.

Her first monograph, Poetic Grace: Elizabeth Opalenik Photographs, 1979-2007, chronicles images from the first 30 years of her career. Her latest book and 2021 pandemic project Workshop Stories: changed through photography shares stories and images from 100 leading workshop instructors. Her work is collected and published internationally.

Instagram: @elizabethopalenik

Get to know Elizabeth in our Inspiration Series video »

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