Personal Alt Process History

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by John Jarosz, Sep 21, 2008.

  1. John Jarosz

    John Jarosz Member

    Messages:
    149
    Joined:
    May 17, 2006
    Location:
    Chicago area
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I guess I must be a little nosy. I'm interested in everyone's history with alt processes; my basic questions are:

    When did you start? How did you get to where you are today?
    What process is your main interest and activity?
    Why do you do an alt process?

    I can go first.

    In December 1976 the Swiss magazine Camera published an issue on "Photography and American History". That issue started my interest in old photographs. I began to read and look at old photos in a different light. Bill Crawford's "Keepers of Light" really grabbed my attention. Until then it never occurred to me that there were people so interested in historical processes that they would re-create the process because they were enamored with the result. In the late '81 I learned of Dr. Green selling Hanfstaengl carbon materials. I bought his book and some materials and started. Along the way I flirted with platinum, but carbon is my main interest. The digital revolution has removed most of the commercial lab services that I used for making my contact print negatives. 4 years ago I moved to 8x10 so I could use "in camera" negatives for printing. Now with the completion of my 8x20 I believe I've found my niche in terms of format.

    The "why" question is probably the most difficult. There are 2 reasons (for me):
    1. The prints are unique, very beautiful(well maybe not mine), and have texture.
    2. Since the process is more laborious then silver printing, it causes me to be more selective and requires a contemplative approach.

    I hope some of you jump in with similar stories. (I did not find a thread like this in the archives)

    John
     
  2. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

    Messages:
    1,691
    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2004
    Location:
    Saratoga Spr
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I started down the alt path about 20+ years ago. My first attempts were in cyanotype and were guided by articles that I read (IIRC) in Petersen's Photographic Magazine. I had access to some direct positive semi-continuous tone film that I used to make enlarged negatives, and while the process was interesting, it was not something that I really enjoyed.

    About 3-4 years ago I did a workshop in which a couple of the other students (both 'little old ladies") showed some VanDyke and Pt/Pd prints. I had always liked the appearance of Pt/Pd prints, and the fact that those two "little old ladies" were doing it convinced me to try again.

    So I started out with VanDyke. I bought a kit from B&S, and picked up some paper from a local art store. I also built a UV light box. Frankly, the results weren't all that great. I went through a lot of paper with very little to show for it.

    Then, I took a workshop on Pt/Pd printing with Tillman Crane where I learned how to make that process actually work. Since then, I've make quite a few prints. I've experimented with enlarged negatives (scanning 35mm negs and then printing them on overhead transparency film), but the result of those experiments haven't been all that good. But I have been very pleased with the results that I've been able to achieve from original, in-camera 4x5 negatives.
     
  3. gr82bart

    gr82bart Member

    Messages:
    5,271
    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2003
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Polaroid transfers since highschool. Platinum prints three years ago, when I signed up for the first Alternative Prints Print Exchange.
    Through fumbling and bumbling. I shoot 99% slide film and transparencies and was looking to expand printing beyond Ilfochromes and Polaroid transfers. Then I took a workshop in ambrotypes two years ago at http://www.Gallery44.org in Toronto, Canada. I was hooked since I can make these directly from my slides / transparencies. I've taken another workshop with France Scully Osterman and also bought "all the books" on alt processes and read them all. Sort of. Plus I went to http://www.AlternativePhotography.com and learned a lot - even became a forum moderator there. Their forum isn't so active or so behaviourly challenged, so it fits in with my lack of play time.
    Platinum, Polaroid transfer, ambrotype.
    I enjoy making them.

    Regards, Art.
     
  4. Katharine Thayer

    Katharine Thayer Member

    Messages:
    252
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2007
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    I copied and pasted the following from my website, for convenience:

    Why I am a gum printer:

    I had a mental picture of the kind of photograph I wanted to make and set out to try to find a way to make them. I had never seen any photographs like them, but I was determined to find a way to make them, these pictures I saw in my head. Their colors were soft and relatively unsaturated, but with a kind of glow about them. I had never seen autochromes, but years later when I saw some reproductions of autochromes, I realized that the look of autochromes is probably closer to what I was imagining than anything that was ever done in gum historically. It's probably a good thing I didn't see the autochromes before I discovered gum, or I may have spent the intervening years trying to make autochromes.

    At any rate I tried and discarded several other possibilities in my search for a way to make these photographs, such as Polaroid transfer, solvent transfer, lith printing, toning, before I found gum. I dabbled in digital art long before most photographers had ever heard of Photoshop, using channel operations and calculations in a very early version of Photoshop to create primitive jury-rigged filters that gave my photographs an impressionistic sort of watercolorish look. Each of these methods produced interesting results, but none of them was what I was looking for. Finally I came across Suda House's book "Artistic Photo Processes" in my local library and saw Todd Walker's dreamy images printed in gum on silk; though his images weren't quite like the ones I was thinking of, I was sure I'd found my medium. I set out first to teach myself to print in gum, using Keepers of Light and an excellent set of instructions from Photographer's Formulary (written by Steve Anchell) as guides, then adapted the method to produce the kinds of pictures I wanted to make, and have been making them ever since. That was nearly 20years ago.

    I've never been interested in any other photographic printing process than gum; it's my process.
    Katharine
     
  5. Vaughn

    Vaughn Member

    Messages:
    5,122
    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2006
    Location:
    Humboldt Co.
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Taught my self carbon printing starting in 1992, from an article in ViewCamera Magazine (Nov/Dec 1990 issue). This was after 15 years of silver gelatin printing (16x20 from 4x5). I approached carbon printing from a viewpoint of silver printing -- carbon are sort of silver prints on steroids (at least the way I make them.)

    One of the things I like about carbon printing is its almost straight line reproduction of the negative...which means I can photograph in very high contrast situations (such as sunlight penetrating deep into the Redwoods) and still capture that light with compresing the tones. The raised relief gives a nice depth to the images also.

    When my triplets were born, I taught myself to make platinum/palladium prints in order to save a little time, as I was a bit busy at home (my wife went back to full time work son after we brought the boys home). I grew to like the slightly soft, in-the-paper look...very different than my previous work.

    So now I do both processes. I enjoy making the hand-made print and it has become part of my imagery...a case of both image and process influencing each other.

    Vaughn
     
  6. wilsonneal

    wilsonneal Member

    Messages:
    578
    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2006
    Location:
    Northern NJ
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    When did you start? I started in PtPd about a year and a half ago, may be a little more.

    How did you get to where you are today? I took a workshop with Carl Weese in PtPd, and then spent about a year bumbling around with different films, developers, developing methods, until today when I find myself getting consistent negatives and asking fewer dumber questions.

    What process is your main interest and activity? I most like PtPd.

    I am interested in experimenting this winter with tri-color gum, or maybe just getting started with gum. Have thought about it for many years, and this may be the winter. I am also interested in finally getting a decent Epson printer and learning how to make digital negs that work. I am getting tired of lugging around my Kodak Masterview 8x10 for portraits.

    Why do you do an alt process? I like the permanence. I like it as a reaction to the 'everyone with a digital camera is a photographer' environment. I like the look--long scale, fine detail from in-camera negs, subtle transitions in tone. I like the contemplative aspect of large format work, and especially what it does to live subjects...they sit still. I realize this is a contradiction of the point above, but life is full of contradictions.

    Neal
     
  7. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council

    Messages:
    9,180
    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Location:
    Washington D
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I got my start into alt process stuff as a result of the "film (and paper) are dying!" scare. I decided I wanted to be able to keep working with film, and large format cameras, as long as possible. At the time, the biggest scare was when Kodak shut down their paper line, so I decided I needed to know how to make my own paper. Platinum/Palladium seemed the natural logical choice, so I started there. At the time, I only had a 4x5 camera. Thus began the snowball of format acquisitions. Although the "film is going away" scare passed, after doing a lot of platinum/palladium printing, I decided I would buy myself some extra insurance and learn wet-plate so that if film did actually die, I could still keep shooting my big cameras, which I had fallen in love with. I've got both those bases (platinum & wet-plate) covered now, so I can plug away no matter what.

    I should add that I love the aesthetics of platinum/palladium, now much more so than silver. I also appreciate the aesthetics of wet plate, and I'm still learning how to take advantage of what it has to offer.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 21, 2008
  8. bnstein

    bnstein Member

    Messages:
    133
    Joined:
    Oct 9, 2007
    Location:
    australia
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    I am but a recent convert, initially the result of economics: a friend has a photo lab and would outsource my B&W developing to the nearby pro lab then scan the negs to CD for a nominal (shout a beer) fee. I got a bit the hell in with paying $10 a throw for a 120 roll so started thinking about doing my own developing. I had been doing a little LF stuff with type 55 which I very much enjoyed, but it was becoming pricey, and rumours of its demise were starting to circulate. This moved me into the DIY path. Darkroom stuff outside of a change tent was just not going to happen in my house, but in bringing my brain back up to speed on developing and stumbling over things like pyrocat I found unblinkingeye and alternatephotography. Thereafter it was cyanotype and toning which is where I have stayed and am now slowly moving up the formats as well.
    I am never going to be anything special in the world of photos or art, but I enjoy the feeling of following in a long tradition, and as others have said it is also the whole LF/contemplative/start-to-finish process that I enjoy.
     
  9. nze

    nze Member

    Messages:
    705
    Joined:
    Apr 12, 2004
    Location:
    France
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I've started alt process in 90 with cyanotype and gum , in 96 I give a try to platinum and keep on doing all these till then. I also did some carbon print from home made tissue or not. And I'll be leased to do more carbon process now.
     
  10. paxette

    paxette Member

    Messages:
    51
    Joined:
    Jul 20, 2006
    Location:
    Canada
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    During the, oh noes! film and paper is disappearing scare a couple years ago I wondered if it would be possible to make prints using nothing but digital equipment. I had been interested in trying gum bichromate for a long time, The Scare just pushed me into doing something about it. I bought some chemicals and paper to try my hand at it with the intention of learning how to make tricolour gum prints and, along the way discovered another process called gumoil. I found gum bichromate too fussy and, quickly abandoned it for the gumoils.

    Then, I saw someones work with dry plate. I bought a quarter plate camera and, started coating plates with liquid emulsion. The inevitable happened, I saw my negative do that magical thing where the light bounces off the surface just right ... I'm now in the process of getting everything together to do wet plate collodion.

    Everything I've learnt has been from the internet or, books I've purchased. I'd give my eye teeth for a wet plate workshop on the West Coast though.

    I'm a process junkie. I get just as much enjoyment out of smearing and rubbing paint on paper or, coating plates under a red light as I do looking at the final result. Maybe more so. It satisfies my need to make things with my hands in a way working in a darkroom doesn't do.
     
  11. Akki14

    Akki14 Member

    Messages:
    1,873
    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2007
    Location:
    London, UK
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    I started in April 2007 after reading an article on davec101's cyanotypes. After learning traditional cyanotype was only two chemicals, I figured that sounded pretty simple. I used mostly 6x9 negatives from a Brownie No.2 camera. I tried enlarged negatives onto panchromatic film (as it was cheapest at the time), I now do some enlarged negatives occasionally on APHS ortho litho film but I mostly use my 4x5 camera now. I've tried Van Dyke Brown, anthotype, physautotype and gum printing. In order of what I've worked with the most, cyanotype, physautotype, van dyke, anthotype and gum printing. I'd really like to get more into gum printing but I want to do tri-colour/gum over cyanotype. It's a bit more fiddly than just cyanotype though so it's been put on the backburner.
    I mostly do cyanotypes. They're easier for me than B&W darkroom. I've not had problems with the paper keeping once coated (no fogging) so I can coat quite a lot then just keep some around, even for relatively quick proofing of negatives. I just need a sink of water for the paper to "develop". I like the blue colour and high contrast of cyanotypes.
    I think I kind of explained why I do alt process above.
     
  12. colrehogan

    colrehogan Member

    Messages:
    2,016
    Joined:
    May 11, 2004
    Location:
    St. Louis, M
    Shooter:
    Large Format Pan
    I started reading about the process in 2004. I read "The New Platinum Print" and after trying the Ziatype for a while early in 2005, I took a class from Kerik Kouklis later that year.

    The process that is my main interest is pt/pd.

    I do an alt process because 1) I was tired of having to pay for someone to make my prints for me and 2) I have no darkroom.

    However, I still have to pay if I want a b/w silver print made for me. :sad:
     
  13. Justin Maramba

    Justin Maramba Member

    Messages:
    18
    Joined:
    Oct 29, 2008
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I got started in alternative processes as soon as I took up toning last year. From there it went to split-toning and multiple toning, and then to Halochrome.

    The process that I'm concentrating on right now is Lith printing and Halochrome.

    I do an alternative process because:
    1) Seems a lot more fun that standard B&W printing most of the time
    2) It gets unique and beautiful results when you get the print to come out.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 6, 2009