Wednesday, May 30, 2007


I've added a few links to the blog, and thought I'd comment briefly on them.

Alternative Photography
A really interesting site. It has detailed descriptions of numerous alternative photo processes, mainly archaic printing processes. There is also a large gallery full of images made using these processes.

Cranbrook Academy of Art
My alma mater, a great school I'm glad I had the chance to experience.

Moraine Valley Commuity College
The school where I teach. I love teaching there!

One of the best photography sites I've seen. Their bookstore has the best inventory of photo-related books you are likely to find. The gallery has lots of interesting work.

Square America
A gallery of vintage snapshots and vernacular photography. Very cool.

Sugarbeet Bags
My younger sister makes and markets these one of a kind bags.

The Dollmakers
This is my mom's and older sister's webpage. They make fine art dolls and sell them at art fairs and galleries around the country. Making art runs in the family!

In other news, my daylab (actually a Vivitar slide printer) arrived today. I'm going to start shooting some slides tonight or tomorrow so I can start working with it.

Friday, May 25, 2007

A Quick Update

I'm off to Michigan to visit family and friends for Memorial Day weekend.
Not a whole lot to report, as far as making art is concerned. I've done some shooting with the toy cameras, and have been doing some reading on making large negatives for alternative process printing using Photoshop and an inkjet printer.
I also bought a daylab on Ebay. A daylab is a device which allows you to take an image from a slide and expose it onto a piece of Polaroid film. Very handy when doing Polaroid lifts and transfers.
When I return from Michigan, I am going to start experimenting with shooting slide film for use in the daylab. I've got a couple of ideas that I need to test. If they work, it will make things very easy. I'm also ready to resume trying to make inkjet transfers work for me. I haven't had much success yet. I'll post some examples soon.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Woo Hoo!

It's official-the school year is over, and I won't be returning to teaching until next January, eight months away. I gave my last exam and turned in grades last Thursday.
I'm doing a bit of reading, relaxing some. Doing some shooting with the toy cameras as well. These were taken last weekend in Chinatown.

I plan on starting some work soon, probably experimenting with inkjet transfers. I'll post some once I start. I'm also going to start shifting into summer mode, working in the garden, riding my bike, and generally enjoying life.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Alternative cameras

Continuing the description of alternative processes I started a couple of posts ago, here’s a brief discussion of nonstandard camera usage.
This area of alternative process photography includes use of toy cameras, using scanners as cameras, nonstandard camera and film combinations, etc.

Photographers who use toy cameras tend to enjoy them because it forces the user to forget everything they know about camera operation and concentrate on their subject. Toy cameras usually have at best very limited control over such crucial camera adjustments as aperture, shutter speed, and focus. These cameras often produce images with flaws and distortions due to the poor optical quality inherent in the camera’s plastic lenses. These flaws are considered desirable in the resulting image. Exposure is often more difficult with these cameras than with normal cameras, due to lack of built-in light meters and potential for light leaks. Negatives from toy cameras can be printed traditionally, or used in combination with many alternative photographic processes.

Holga cameras are an infamous toy camera that is gaining in popularity. It takes 120 sized film, and is known for vignetting, light leaks, and other imperfections.

This is a photo I made with a Holga camera. It’s an accidental double exposure of my sister.

The Nishika camera has four lenses which produce four vertical photos across two frames of 35mm film. It was manufactured as a 3D camera, and the negatives can be printed by a lab using a lenticular process to give a result similar to those 3D postcards found in souvenir shops. I find the four nearly identical (with slightly differing viewpoints) images produced by the Nishika interesting,and have been taping various diffusers (scraps of plastic, colored filters, etc.) over one or more of the lenses before shooting.
Nishika cameras are no longer made, but are pretty easily found on Ebay. My brother in law and several of my students have purchased them after seeing mine.

Another area of investigation in alternative photography is the use of the scanner as a camera. Collages and still-life images are easily created by using a scanner, and distorted images can be made by moving an image during scanning. the resulting images can be printed for use in inkjet or laser transfers, or printed onto transparency film and used in making non-silver prints as discussed in the previous post. I don't have any scanner images to show you yet, so here's another Holga photo.

This photo was taken in the Oriental Institute museum at the University of Chicago.

During my sabbatical, I am planning on using at least two toy cameras, as well as experimenting with using a scanner as a camera. The cameras I’ll be using are a Holga and a Nishika. As an added bit of fun, I I’ve decided to only use expired film in these cameras. Unusual color shifts and contrast issues may result.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Archaic non-silver printing processes

Some of the earliest methods of photographic printmaking are non-silver processes. While they are no longer used for everyday printing, most of these processes can be used to make prints by anyone willing to put in the time and effort to master them. There are too many archaic printing processes for me to describe here, so I’ll limit myself to short descriptions of some of the better known ones.

Cyanotype prints have a distinctive blue tone. The chemicals used to mix a cyanotype emulsion create Prussian blue pigment when combined and exposed to ultraviolet light. The prints shown in this post are cyanotypes that I made last summer.

The deep brown tones obtained in a VanDyke brown print also come from the chemicals used to mix the emulsion. Different chemicals result in the brown tones when the sensitized print is exposed to ultraviolet light.

Gum bichromate prints are also created by coating paper with a light sensitive emulsion. In these prints, however, color is determined by the addition of watercolor paint to the liquid emulsion. Different colors on the same print can be obtained by coating and printing the paper multiple times.

Cyanotypes, VanDyke brown prints and gum bichromate prints are contact printing processes. This means that the resulting print is the same size as the negative used to print it. Enlargers are not used as in traditional printing. If you desire an 8 X 10 inch print, you must print from an 8 X 10 inch negative. Currently, the easiest method of obtaining large negatives is to print them onto transparency film using a photo-quality inkjet printer. Creating the negative with the correct density and tonal range requires experience in intermediate to advanced level Photoshop skills.

To prepare a light-sensitive surface for printing, chemical solutions are mixed and brushed by hand onto paper or fabric (printmaking and watercolor paper are commonly used). The paper is then allowed to air dry. After the paper is dried, the negative is placed in contact with the sensitized paper, and exposed to ultraviolet light. Exposure times vary based on the intensity of the light source you are using. For cyanotype prints, an exposure time of 20 minutes in direct sunlight is not uncommon. I built a simple exposure unit equipped with ultraviolet bulbs, using this, my exposure time for a cyanotype is 11-13 minutes.

Development for these processes is usually more simple than it is for traditional photographs. The three processes I’ve described all develop in water. After a 3-4 minute rinse, cyanotype prints are submerged in a bath of diluted hydrogen peroxide, which oxidizes the Prussian blue pigment, resulting in a darker blue color.

A more detailed description of these and many other process can be found on the Alternative Photography website, along with many examples of work made using these processes. Follow the link to the right.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

A brief introduction to alternative photographic processes

Alternative process photography is a blanket term for photographic work which deviates from standard camera and darkroom techniques. In general, alternative photographic processes are more labor intensive and progress at a slower pace than traditional darkroom or camera techniques. While many of them not considered overly difficult to master, others are very complicated. The easiest of these processes have a level of complexity which requires a solid working knowledge of photographic technique. Most of them aren't for beginners. Alternative processes place a much greater emphasis on handicraft and hand made prints, often resulting in unique, one of a kind works of art.

The goal for my upcoming sabbatical is to explore alternative photographic processes. The goal for this blog is to report on my progress as I make work while exploring them. Over the next few posts, I’ll briefly describe some of these processes.