The Japanese dancer Micha Itow, photographed in London on 22 October 1915 and published in 1922 as plate XXI of Coburn’s More Men of Mark.
Coburn wrote the following words in his introduction to the book: Itow, the dancer, was another link with my beloved Japan. I first saw him in a ‘Fox Dance’ with a mask by Dulac. When he came to be photographed he proceeded at once to put on an old suit of Japanese armour I had in the studio, and it is thus that he appears in this volume. Itow could twist his face and body into the most marvellous contortions; undoubtedly there was the spark of great ability in his frail frame. He has gone to America, I believe. I hope it will appreciate him.
The collotype (from the Greek kollo, meaning glue) is a photomechanically produced image which can be of very high quality. A kind of photolithograph in which glass replaces stone as the printing surface, its production calls for a glass plate to be coated with a base layer of gelatin hardened with sodium silicate and second layer of gelatin rendered sensitive to light by the addition of potassium or ammonium bichromate. The doubly coated plate is then dried in a darkened oven at low heat. The plate is exposed to light (that is, contact printed) under a negative of the desired image. In proportion to the amount of light received, the second level of gelatin hardens. When the exposed plate is thoroughly washed in water, excess bichromate runs off and the gelatin swells and buckles, producing a very finely grained pattern of wrinkles called reticulation, valleys of hardened gelatin separated by bumps with the capacity to absorb water. Next, the plate is treated with a glycerine solution that promotes further absorption of water by the bumps between the veins. Then the plate is dampened and carefully rolled with ink. As in a lithograph process, the greasy ink is repulsed from the water-swollen bumps but adheres along the lines of reticulation. The inked plate is then printed on paper, producing a finely detailed image with considerable subtlety of tone and the appearance of continuous tone. The pattern of reticulation is only visible under high magnification.