Over this past summer I read through Fred Picker's Zone VI newsletters and came to realize how long we photographers have been complaining about our materials. (It's likely that everyone since Daguarre has been complaining about not getting rich enough blacks and muddy whites in their prints.) Picker, writing in the '70s and '80s, groused of how all the good photo papers were disappearing and of not being able to find good cameras anymore, and on and on.
While I'm not comfortable saying that there aren't any good films or papers available anymore, I am struck by how a feeling of future shock has affected analog film photography. Previously one could expect to use a certain film or paper for a decade or longer, and truly get to know and understand it. Not any more. Given the current climate, I don't know that I can rely on any film available today, particularly large format film, to be available in a decade. Perhaps, perhaps not. The same with photographic paper.
With these concerns in mind, and with the frustration that I wasn't happy with the quality of silver gelatin papers either, I trodded down the dangerous path of the silver bullet hunt that many never escape from.
Because of good mentorship I landed on platinum/palladium printing.
Platinum/Palladium prints are known for their long tonal values and delicate highlights. They're ridiculously expensive to make, and I find that I like double-crossing the best, which increases the cost even more. Some suggest that double-coating gives richer blacks, but I'm better tonal scale throughout the whole image. And while the paper that I use, Arches Platina, may go away (Pl/Pd printers mix and coat the emulsion on the paper themselves), at least l have more control in choosing another paper than with premade gelatine silver papers.
Platinum prints come in two flavors these days - those printed with digital negatives and those printed with in-camera negatives. A digital negative may be made from a from a digital capture or a scanned negative, while an in-camera negative means that the prints was made directly from the film that was in the camera. I only print from in-camera negatives.
Most importantly, with Platinum/Palladium printing my images have never looked better.