Why alternative processes?

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by tnp651, Jun 8, 2018.

  1. tnp651

    tnp651 Subscriber

    Messages:
    72
    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2017
    Location:
    St. Paul, Minnesota, USA
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Bear with me while I play devil's advocate. I've been making kallitypes for about a year and a half, using digital negatives made from scanned 4x5 negatives. It occurs to me that I could make inkjet prints that look as good or better than the kallitypes, with better tonal range and (almost) as much archival permanence. So why do it?

    I like being back in the darkroom again. I like the physicality of the process. I like the difficulty of coating the paper, the anticipation of seeing if it turned out. I like the story I can tell my friends of going back to a 19th-century process. But does the print have any more value? If you can't tell it from an inkjet (except, perhaps, with a 10X loupe) does it have more actual value as an art object? Am I like those guys in their woodshops, making and painting little whirligigs and then trying to sell them, when the fun is in the making, not the having?
    [​IMG]
    Am I like the Instagrammers with their filters, pasting Art over my images to give them more pizazz? Much of museum-grade fine-art photography is about the artist's concept, not the image (which can be stunningly mundane). Am I like that, making prints because of the story I can tell, or because the doing of it is fun? Obviously, in any hobby we're doing it for fun, but I want to produce something whose value justifies the extra work.

    I'm not just trolling here. This is a real question for me. What do you think about this? Why do you use alternative processes?
    Tom
     
  2. BrianShaw

    BrianShaw Member

    Messages:
    7,968
    Joined:
    Nov 30, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I like everything about alt processes that you say you like. Who cares about comparison with other processes... they are a thing unto themselves.
     
  3. slackercrurster

    slackercrurster Member

    Messages:
    106
    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2017
    Location:
    L.A. - NYC - Rustbelt
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    OP...I would do alternative either for the look or the chemistry.
     
  4. Andrew O'Neill

    Andrew O'Neill Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,504
    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2004
    Location:
    Coquitlam,BC Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    It ties in nicely with my printmaking background. The processes that I use have a look that I appreciate. Carbon transfer, Kallitypes, Gum bichromate, and for the last couple of months, I've been teaching myself tri-colour carbon... Hands on is more satisfying than pressing a button on an inkjet printer.
     
  5. Erik Petersson

    Erik Petersson Subscriber

    Messages:
    743
    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2006
    Location:
    Stockholm, S
    Shooter:
    35mm
    It doesn't make much sense for me to make analogue photos at all now. I could buy a used Nikon digital camera and get higher quality faster. But I don't try to be making sense when photographing, where's the fun in that?
     
  6. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,043
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2004
    Location:
    Toronto-Onta
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    Permanence of Gum and Palladium definitely out trump inkjets.. I do both inkjets and alternative prints and they do not look the same to my eyes.. I love the layering effect of Palladium (noble metal in paper fibres) with layers of pigment on top creating depth , valleys and tonal variations.

    If I need to do a large contemporary print then I would indeed resort to inkjet prints as they are lovely from good capture.
     
  7. RauschenOderKorn

    RauschenOderKorn Subscriber

    Messages:
    471
    Joined:
    Apr 14, 2016
    Location:
    Bavaria, Germany
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Because I can
    And because it is the real deal, the original. Not a copy, not an imitation, not a look-alike.
     
  8. Theo Sulphate

    Theo Sulphate Subscriber

    Messages:
    4,781
    Joined:
    Jul 3, 2014
    Location:
    Gig Harbor & Palm Springs
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Alternative processes are fascinating. I like the idea that I can create my own emulsion and make images on glass or paper, that I'm not reliant on a commercially packaged product, that as long as I can get the chemicals, I can make a photo.

    I haven't really started this in earnest, but I'll be retired in two weeks, so I'll have plenty of time.
     
  9. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,043
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2004
    Location:
    Toronto-Onta
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    Me too, I love the fact that I can make my own prints from scratch...
     
  10. NedL

    NedL Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,548
    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2012
    Location:
    Sonoma County, California
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Groups:
    and +1 :smile:
     
  11. pdeeh

    pdeeh Member

    Messages:
    4,712
    Joined:
    Jun 8, 2012
    Location:
    UK
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    why do anything?

    also, I showed an artist friend of mine one of my 6x6cm Namias sepia contacts the other days and she said 'Gosh isn't that beautiful'. So there's that.
     
  12. paulbarden

    paulbarden Member

    Messages:
    603
    Joined:
    Nov 12, 2014
    Location:
    Oregon, Willamette Valley
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    This is just one of the reasons I relate to.

    I have the same feelings about working with scans in Lightroom: someone at Adobe did all the hard work - I just make a few choices by pressing buttons. After years of working this way - telling myself "but this is so much easier!" - I find digital imaging processes demand TOO LITTLE of me. So what is the most satisfactory process I use now? Wet Plate Collodion. It demands that I learn some serious skills in order to create decent output.

    But that's not the whole story, by a long shot.

    I've watched the digital imaging industry grow and blossom over the past 20 years, and one thing is glaringly obvious: there is no long term solution for the archiving of digital work. Passing on terabytes of files from one hard drive to another, ad infinitum, is NOT a solution. (For me) As a friend of mine in the software industry says in a lecture he gives to his peers: "I can read sheet music written by Bach 300 years ago, but I can't open a Word document written in 1995".
    I tell people that its important FOR ME to work in materials and processes that do not require any tool other than ones eyes to interpret the work. All of the digital tools we use today are guaranteed to be obsolete in under 50 years (in some cases, it may be 5 or less) which leaves the files created with them in limbo. Nobody is going to look at your hard drive in 100 years to see what you created, but if they find a box of my ambrotypes, all they have to do is pick them up and look.

    Lastly, I do not want to be beholden to the few remaining film/paper suppliers to provide me the materials I need to do work. I'm happy to switch back and forth from film to collodion, knowing that if Ilford (or any other supplier) should vanish one day, I'm not going to be stuck without materials to make work I enjoy making.

    These are MY reasons, and mine alone. Maybe you relate to them, and maybe not, and that's fine either way.
     
  13. Andrew O'Neill

    Andrew O'Neill Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,504
    Joined:
    Jan 16, 2004
    Location:
    Coquitlam,BC Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Well said, Paul.
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. awty

    awty Subscriber

    Messages:
    286
    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2016
    Location:
    Australia
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I like making things by hand and then being able to look at them with the pride of that its something I made, not a computer/machine.
    Live in a society where people are congratulated on social media for posting pictures of there shopping or the meal that there about to eat prepared by someone else.
    But I guess it boils down to what floats your boat.
     
  16. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

    Messages:
    10,297
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Location:
    K,Germany
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    It is not about the value; it is about the pleasure of the craft and its unique look!
     
  17. ced

    ced Member

    Messages:
    445
    Joined:
    Oct 10, 2011
    Location:
    Belgica
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Groups:
    My take is that the result you get can "never' be repeated making it a one off original.
    If for example (in Gum Bichromate printing) just 1 parameter is altered with/without intention you get something other than what you may have hoped for, it is quite satisfying when it turns to be something you like.
    Maybe part of the pleasure lies too in the suspense of what is going to result at the end of 3-4 days of a print in making. I know I enjoy that immensely looking forward to see it's arrival on completion.
    To explain the process in detail to someone that hasn't got a clue of how such an image came about may either put them to sleep or stir in them the possibility to explore the intricacies involved.
    I think that whenever I look at any image done in the alt process my breath is taken away for a moment and I just don't get that from a regular inkjet print.
     
  18. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,043
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2004
    Location:
    Toronto-Onta
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    Alternative processes take time and it makes me feel like I am in the 70's again making my first serious prints and I enjoy the anticipation as ced mentions above.
     
  19. guangong

    guangong Subscriber

    Messages:
    834
    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2009
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    While I do make inkjet prints, mainly because they are easy and fast, but they do not look identical to chemically processed prints.
    A traditional print is imbedded IN the paper while a digital print sits ON the paper and reflects light quite differently. When mounted under glass the differences may not be so dobvious. There is also habit. We become adjusted to totally virtual computer generated sets in movies and TV ads so that digital prints begin to look normal.
    A digital copy of a picture made by a traditional or alternative process may look like one made digitally but in real life side by side comparison look quite different .
    To take an example not from photography, an etching in person looks quite different from a reproduction of the same etching. With an etching ink has been pressed INTO damp paper.
    Digital and traditional reproduction processes each have their place. No matter which process, unlike those who use digital capture, we still have a negative.
     
  20. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

    Messages:
    6,017
    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2006
    Location:
    Humboldt Co.
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    I am not a hobbiest, I am an artist. Method and materials are part of the artistic process. I choose the method and materials that best help me to express myself. Right now, that means film and alt processes.
     
  21. eddie

    eddie Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,455
    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2005
    Location:
    Northern Vir
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Like everyone has posted, it’s about uniqueness and a physical ( and emotional) connection to what I’m creating. Truth is, though, I have the same reasons for doing good old silver gelatin prints.
     
  22. dpurdy

    dpurdy Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,457
    Joined:
    Jun 24, 2006
    Location:
    Portland OR
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    For me it is not a logical or intellectual decision, Platinum/Palladium has a different look from silver gel. The look of a platinum print affects the way I see and what of or how I make images. A print might not work at all in Silver Gel but sings in Platinum. The opposite is also true. Sometimes a platinum print just can't do what I need it to as well as a silver gel print does. If you are envisioning what the end result will be as you are photographing a subject, you will work and see differently with Platinum in mind than with something else.
     
  23. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,043
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2004
    Location:
    Toronto-Onta
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    One thing that I think , guangong may be alluding too , really hits home for me.

    Unless we get thousands upon thousands of unique alternative prints in the gallery market place, those of us who do this work to exhibit are at a disadvantage when trying to submit to (gallery's, calls for submissions SELLERS . )
    I am having a hard time reproducing the finished print (gum over palladium ) that conveys the real beauty of the physical print in a digital form for viewing
    For Example I attach this image, Small Sunflower.jpg this is about the best I can show the quality of this print, it has been rendered down to a back light rendition of what the real print looks like, For the viewer of proposals they are looking at this and in their minds eye, cannot
    resolve the difference between what they are seeing and what the reality is.

    This would be true for carbon printers, pt pd printers, specifically Gum Printers where the texture and colour layering becomes important to the artist. MAKERS.
    This fact alone may be the reason it will take a bit more time for those of us to get our work out there. On screen all images looks the same, and unfortunately every submission or call is asking for digital jpegs, my own gallery included.

    For me I am doing my best to build a portfolio, and once it is ready to my satisfaction I think I will go to the major art fairs and take a table to let the SELLERS see my work, as well go to the good art reviews like Houston and let different eyes actually see the work.
    For us we are the MAKERS we get the significance , we get the labour of love, but we all must remember that if we want to have our work known and sold (I TOTALLY GET SOME OF YOU DO NOT WISH THIS) then we need to get the SELLERS educated in seeing the difference, and able to talk clearly about our work.



    Please be advised that when I am using Caps above I am not yelling but trying to emphasis what I think is critical for those of us wanting our work to flourish in a larger art market.
     
  24. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

    Messages:
    3,239
    Joined:
    May 10, 2006
    Location:
    Aurora, IL
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Why don't you just print the 4x5 negative in your darkroom?
     
  25. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,043
    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2004
    Location:
    Toronto-Onta
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    Is this a question to me?
     
  26. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

    Messages:
    3,239
    Joined:
    May 10, 2006
    Location:
    Aurora, IL
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Oh I am sorry. I meant the OP. He said he scan the 4x5 neg then made digital negative before making prints. Why can't he print directly from the 4x5 negative?
     
,