Archaic printmaking processes - dissertation help needed.

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by kevs, Jan 25, 2007.

  1. kevs

    kevs Member

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    Hi all,

    As a part of my studies i am currently writing my dissertation, looking at the alternative printmaking processes (i'm calling them 'archaic processes' for obvious reasons). The focus of the dissertation is their fall from favour during the first part of the twentieth century and the ongoing revival in their use. I'm also looking at the contemporary context that these processes are used in.

    Would anyone here be willing to be interviewed either on or off the forum? If anyone here is around the Plymouth area, would it be possible to meet you in person? (well - i can always hope!)

    I'd like to ask about the reasons you use your particular process(es), and what they offer you over silver-gelatin or digital materials and techniques. Why do you go to the inconvenience of making enlarged negatives and using noxious chemicals when you could so easily just sit back and let the computer do the work?

    Something else i'm currently researching is the links between Pictorialism and the archaic processes like gum-bichromate and bromoil. They seem intimately linked and thus the decline in one led to the decline in the other.

    Any help on this would be appreciated. Thank you all very much for your time.

    Cheers,
    kevs
     
  2. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Kevin -

    I'm a relatively new arrival at the "archaic processes" game, but I think I manage to make a fair print now and then, and I'd be happy to talk with you about it. Also, just as a side note, many of us alt-process folks don't make enlarged negatives - we shoot our original film that big. In some cases (wet-plate collodion, tintype, daguerrotype), we make our own "film" that big to boot. PM me if you'd like to have a more in-depth conversation.
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Feel free to send me a PM or e-mail via my APUG profile.
     
  4. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    I question if the word "archiac" is the best word to use. While some practioneers are using techniques and equipment that were used in the early in the relatively short history of photography, most are using a combination of the old and new. My carbon prints do harken back to the early days, but the negatives are on modern films and taken with modern opticis -- and my landscapes are more contemporary than of the 1800's. The chemicals I use are simpler, and less smelly, than those used to make silver prints. Others are using digital files to create large inkjet negatives for use with alt processes.

    However, use whatever term you deem best. I can be contacted at

    vgh7001@humboldt.edu

    Good luck, vaughn
     
  5. Joe Lipka

    Joe Lipka Member

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    I wouldn't mind chatting or talking on this subject.
     
  6. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    You seem to have come to the right place, Kevs!

    In a way, we're all involved with "archaic processes" here - although as a geologist my definition of "archaic" is somewhat different! :smile:

    I won't mind an interview either, although I'm more of a dabbler-into than a practitioner-of the alternative processes. I might even find an excuse for a trip to Plymouth...
     
  7. johnnywalker

    johnnywalker Subscriber

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    Kevs, from what I've read, Ole is a pretty well-informed dabbler.
     
  8. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    Kevin, I'm not a practicioner myself, but a beautifully interesting book about the recovery of the "alternative" processes is "Antiquarian Avant-Garde: The New Wave in Old Processes"

    It contains some useful information on the demise of these processes as well as about their recovery. I have this book at home (I'm in uni right now), but PM if you want an ISBN number or some more info about the book.
     
  9. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    If I may be so bold, I would suggest the term "Historic Processes" instead, as many people still use these processes and your term implies that they have been abandon...

    That said, feel free to email or PM me with questions and I would be happy to answer them for you.

    - Randy
     
  10. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    Archaic: "marked by the characteristics of an earlier period; antiquated." That fits pretty well for my work, from salt prints to platinum to wet plates.

    I have thought a great deal about why the earlier processes declined in popularity and why I use them today. If you want to talk, e-mail or PM.

    Allen
     
  11. kevs

    kevs Member

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    Hi all,

    Thanks very much for volunteering folks, i'll sort out a few starting questions and post again on Monday. Unfortunately, i don't have home intenet access, and am using the college computers.

    Just a little background: I've been interested in the archaic processes since i read about 31 Studio in 1996. 31 Studio is a company specialising in platinum and palladium printmaking, based in rural Gloucestershire in England. Since i found out that other processes existed i've read up quite a lot of information.

    Now i'm in my final year at Uni, i decided it was time i tried out something different. I've been playing around with the kallitype process, initially using ferric ammonium oxalate. It worked at first but not as well as i'd have liked. last weekend i brewed my own ferric oxalate and tried it out - it worked well and i'm quite pleased with the first kallitypes i've made with it.

    Because i was planning to make my final prints in kallitype, i wanted to write about the alternative or 'archaic' processes for my dissertation. it's something a little different - most people seem to wrote about feminism or body politics which IMO have been done to death. :smile:

    So i'm trawling through the standard texts - The Keepers of Light has been very helpful, as has Mike Ware's website and a few others. There are a few others i need to read too. Thanks for the suggestion of "Antiquarian Avant-Garde: The New Wave in Old Processes", mhv. I'll see if i can find it somewhere!

    I think that the term 'alternative' is slightly misleading, mainly because if you use, say a digital camera, then any light-sensitive paper or surface is an alternative way of making a print. It's about the perspective of what is used most of the time. I realise that processes like the Argyrotype and Chrysotype, Ziatype etc are recent innovations, but they are based upon techniques and materials from the beginnings of the medium, so 'archaic' seemed more appropriate I hope that i didn't upset anyone with it!

    Thank you all for your time and help,

    Cheers,
    kevs
     
  12. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Having done a doctoral thesis I am aware of the fact that one of the perks of this kind of work is that you get to define your terms as you see fit, so long as there is some reasonable and logical justification. Having said that, archaic is not a term that I would use as you propose to use it, for several reasons. First, it does suggest the idea that the work is in some way antiquated, or that it has the look of something from another day, and that is the last thing I try to achieve in my work work in a variety of alternative processes. I much prefer the term alternative because it is a term that will always stand in opposition to the ubiquitious methods of processsing, which was silver gelatin but is now inkjet printing. Alternative made sense in the late 60s and 70s when there was a recuperation of historical printmaking processes, and it still makes sense today. And, unlike the term historical, which is used by Dick Sullivan, alternative does not establish any time or chronlogicall boundaries. It is simply that which is done in a way that contrasts with the more common manifestions and for that reason makes more sense to me than either archaic or historical, both of which are more limiting in scope.

    BTW, my comments represent not only my experience as an alternative printer, in which capacity most persons on this list know me, but also as a published scholar on Pictorialism (most of it in Spanish or in the area of the history of Spanish photography), and as such very familar with the importance pictorial artists placed on control processes such as gum bichromate, fresson, oil, bromoil, etc. in conveying meaning and content.

    I wish you much luck in your study of this fascinting subject.

    Sandy King
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 26, 2007
  13. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    Alternative v. Historical v. Archaic.

    I don’t have definitive answers on which term to use, but I do have some points for continued discussion.

    First, I think which ever term we use, we need to keep in mind that we are referring to the process. It is an archaic process, or historical process, or alternative process. The reference to the process does not imply that the final image will, as Sandy writes, suggest “the idea that the work is in some way antiquated.” It may be made using antiquated methods or process, but that doesn’t mean the work has to be antiquated. I think that is one of the points of "Antiquarian Avant-Garde: The New Wave in Old Processes" Very contemporary images can be made using antiquated processes.

    Second, the word “alternative” has a couple of different meanings when applied to photographic methods. One meaning would be, as Sandy writes, any processes which “stand in opposition to the ubiquitous methods of processing, which was silver gelatin but is now inkjet printing.” Under this definition, silver gelatin would now be an alternative process, just as platinum, silver chloride, carbon etc. are alternative processes. Two, alternative can also mean that one uses common materials in a different way. For example, transparency films are usually processed in E-6 chemistry. The alternative process is to cross process in C41 chemistry. Polaroid prints are normally self contained. But, when a transfer to water color paper is done, the materials are being used in an alternative way. Under this definition, all historical processes would be alternative, but not all alternative prints would be historical.

    Third, from a linguistic stand point “alternative processes” does not work very well. Traditionally, there are two alternatives, I.e. to walk or run. If there is a third option, such as riding, then linguistically, we have choices, not alternatives.

    Fourth, the original post refers to processes which fell out of favor early in the last century. So, all the processes he talks about would be historical. Given the limitations of the original post, the word alternative seems overbroad.

    Fifth, I think this whole discussion raises the issue of fidelity to the older processes. When does an older process quit being historical. For example, I am experimenting with enlarging from color slides to wet plates. The chemistry is historical, but the method is not. Does that mean that I am using an alternative historical process? What about using modern negatives with platinum or albumen? Powdered egg whites any one?

    A few things to think about.

    Allen
     
  14. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Allen,

    There is probably no term we could use that would perfectly categorize all of the processes we are talking about. Indeed, determining which processes we are talking about is perhaps the major conundrum. However, as far as I am concerned alternative is a better all-around term than historical, antique, or archaic.

    As for archaic, the most essential definition of archaic is something “marked by the characteristics of an earlier period,” so when you use it there is definitely IMO the suggestion that you are working in an older style.

    As for Lyle Rexer’s use of terms, while he calls “alternative” an artifact left over from the 1960s, he himself continues to use the term, and refers to the antiquarian avangarde processes that illustrate his book as a “not-neat subset” of alternative work. Those processes include both historical (platinum, gum bichromate, daguerreotype, etc.) as well as contemporary (emulsion on steel, silver on aluminum plate, cibachrome photogram, etc.). All of these processes are alternative (when that terms is used “in contrast to the more ubiquitous”, but some are historical/archaic, some contemporary, while others are not. Clearly, his differentiation is based on style, not process.

    If we limit the category only to processes that were developed in the early days of photography and in the pictorial period, I find the term “ historical” much preferable to either “alternative” or “archaic” because in this context process is the primary categorizing tool, not style, and as I said before, “archaic” in its first and most important definition is about style, not process.

    Sandy King
     
  15. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I like "handcoated processes" myself. It has no direct temporal boundaries, seems to include all the relevant processes for this purpose, while excluding things like Polaroid transfers and manipulations, which are sometimes called "alternative," but would seem to be a different category like, say, crossprocessing.
     
  16. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I think that I would have to second David's suggestion. Thanks for that David.

    In addition, I would like to say again that silver gelatin is not used by anyone except a few people doing exhibitions and those on APUG and similar forums. In the industry itself it is not in use at all.

    PE
     
  17. sanking

    sanking Member

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    I like the term hand-coated as well, and use it a lot to describe my own work, which is 100% hand coated, either in carbon, kallitype, or Pt./Pd. However, hand-coated excludes many processes that we normally include as "alternative," many of which are seen in Rexer's book. That would include POP, any of the emulsion transfers, carbon (if using manufactured tissue), photogravure (same reasoning as carbon), pinhole images made on factory-coated papers, photograms on factory-coated papers, etc, etc.

    Again, the major question here is "what processes are included"? I think we could all agree that no one term is perfect. However, in my estimation the term "alternative" is less imperfect than any of the others if we include both historical and contemporary processes, excluding inkjet printing which is now the "standard and ubiquitious" printing process, even for artists. I agree with PE in that silver gelatin, whether regular VC paper or POP, is an alternative processes.

    Sandy King
     
  18. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Sandy;

    I think that there might be the intent here, using David's suggestion, to place manufactured items in one category and hand made items in another category. Thus, hand made is used in some cases to indicate a one-of-a-kind item.

    In your examples above, I think you might distinguish between totally hand made products and manufactured.

    Hand crafting tends to lend an additional aura of authenticity to an art work as opposed to mass produced artwork. So then, a photograph made from scratch from start to finish has a different cachet than one made with a mass produced camera, mass produced film, and mass produced print material.

    IDK for sure, but it seems to me that we are approaching that phase of our art. And, it is an art no matter what anyone else thinks.

    PE
     
  19. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    Thank you all for the excellent discussion.

    The term "alternative" is clearly the predominant term in use today. After all, this discussion is in the "alternative processes" section of APUG. Frankly, it is the term I use most often to describe my own work, when using a general term. But, the term does have problems, which have been pointed out in the discussion.

    The notion of hand-made, hand-coated and non-factory photography has been around for quite a while. The terms certainly have appeal.

    To me, there are a couple of issues floating around. One is that we are distinguishing our work from the predominant way of doing photography, which is also a moving target. Today, that would be digital prints--inkjet or light jet. But, there are still enough people using silver gelatin (or factory produced black and white paper) that we have to distinguish from it as well. Among chemical, black and white photographers, it is the predominant method.

    Two, to what extent must hand made be hand made? Does hand-coating the final print qualify when our cameras are built by Leica, Nikon or Canon, the negative was made on Fuji or Kodak film, and an enlarged negative was made on an Epson printer. Of course, there is a continuum here, as even doing glass plates, I don't make my own glass. When doing platinum, I buy manufactured papers to coat. Does one element of hand work qualify?

    I like the idea of one of a kind as opposed to mass produced. The idea that with hand coated, hand manipulated, hand colored etc, that each work will be slightly different from others. Each print will be unique.

    As for POP and other “alternative” processes which use factory produced materials, it is possible to make your own POP paper. I would continue to coat my own platinum paper even if someone started manufacturing it again. Same with albumen. Historically, albumen was a factory made paper.

    Some more to think about out on the farm. Great discussion!
     
  20. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    And it was even more ambiguous than that. The factory made product as I understand it was albumenized paper that still had to be sensitized by the printer.
     
  21. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    There were lots of albumen paper producers!

    If you should happen to look through a 1900's German cookbook, wou will find a lot of recipes using egg yolks only. That was because of the surplus from the Albumen Paper industry!

    There were also collodion papers, platinum papers, arrowroot papers, and whatever not...
     
  22. MikeK

    MikeK Member

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    Does not hand-coated refer to today's method of making Pt/Pd, Salt and other processes? Before WW1 there were many factories that had coating and rolling facilities for these emulsions (many were available commercially); as is POP today - and that is not hand-coated.

    Maybe "historical process" is a better description? As these were being used before silver gelatin came along and they fell by the wayside

    Mike
     
  23. Lukas Werth

    Lukas Werth Member

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    I was following the discussion with interest, and would like to add a few considerations. I don't want to vote for a certain term, as I really think this is very much a matter of perspective also, and how a term is defined/used in a discourse.
    However, all these terms, archaic, alternative, hand-coated, post-factory, aim at distinguishing our practices from those which are considered mainstream, common, "non-noble" (a German name for an alternative print is "Edeldruck", "noble print"). This points to a particular characteristic of the photographic medium as such, one which I am inclined to view somewhat critically: throughout much of its history, it has been tied to notions of technical progress, and was woven into an industrial infrastructure *which frequently (at least to a considerable extent) defined its artistic expressions* - think, for instance, of the pervading influence of the advertisement culture.
    This is what makes us looking at "archaic" with unease: of course, I don't see in these practices some snobbish time passing, like racing with vintage cars or other such rubbish. But do I really have to tie my notion of art to that of (technological) progress? Other strands of art use historical quotations and borrowings with much more ease: in painting, the dedicated use of ancient techniques by many surrealists, patterns of novels (like the figure of the fool or the imp), ample quotations in music (few people think the violin or the piano are outmoded/obsolete/archaic).
    I find quoting in art a fruitful way of expression, and I try to weave notions into my pictures which go back to before the rise of "modernity's imperatives", as they were formulated by Paul Strand and the group f64. I try by no means to copy or recreate, say, pictoralist photographs, but I found myself inspired looking back to them and seeing what they were looking for, ways they tried to explore.
    So, whatever expression you would prefer - I for once can live with using several of them as I see them fit in a certain context - I would think it useful to entail a notion of not only difference, but also that of a challenge to ingrained, but limiting perceptions of the medium.
     
  24. kevs

    kevs Member

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    Hi all,

    Just a quick note to say Thank You to everyone who helped with my dissertation. I've now handed it in and expect the results some time in April.

    If anyone wants a copy, i can e-mail it out to you or via PM. The full file is just under 12MB as a M$ Word file with images. I can remove the images - most of which are copyright to others and are well-known anyway - to make a smaller file. I'll be posting it without pics on my webspace temporarily during the Easter hols.

    The copyright issue is the reason i'm not posting it on the forum.

    Cheers,
    kevs
     
  25. kevs

    kevs Member

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    Hi all,

    My dissertation is now online at:
    http://www.southernsky.fsnet.co.uk/dis_chap1.rtf
    and
    http://www.southernsky.fsnet.co.uk/dis_chap2.rtf

    The dissertation is in two parts, both in Rich Text format which can be read by almost any word processor. I have removed all images to save webspace and for copyright reasons, the titles are still in there. The Contents page will be inaccurate because of this.

    I have uploaded these files for general interest and to say 'thank you' to all the Apug posters who helped me with my research. Your rock! :smile:

    Cheers,
    kevs