Tag Archives: Alternative Photographic Process

From The Director: Alternative Photography at a glance

Installation shot of the exhibition

Installation shot of the exhibition

The idea for this exhibition came from wanting to show a different side of photography. More than an exhibition showing photos of places, people, and things (those are included, of course) but also a show about how these photographic images are physically made. By hand.

Having a background as a painter, graphic designer, and art educator before coming to Main Street Arts means that my connection to photography is not as a photographer. I use cameras regularly, have developed my own film, and have experienced the magic of the darkroom, both in high school and in college. I know the thrill of making a photograph by hand, if only on a small level. I was also an assistant to my father when he was a wedding photographer (I once dropped a roll of medium format film in the back of the church and instantly lost the images of the bride getting ready to get married—this is the horror of losing a photograph by hand). So, my connection to photography comes from a place of appreciation and of wonder. How do people capture such life and feeling in an image? Especially when you can’t review the shot you just took on a digital screen on the back of the camera.

John Coffer, shooting a plate on a cold December afternoon

John Coffer, shooting a plate on a cold December afternoon

This exhibition is an exploration of handmade photography. The various kinds of images featured fall under the “Alternative Process” heading (hence the very utilitarian title of this show!) and most harken back to a day before digital technology. The five artists featured in this exhibition represent various directions that can be taken when delving into an antique or vintage process.

“Cabbage and Gloves” photogravure and encaustic wax, by Pat Bacon

Even though this show is not meant to be a comprehensive overview of alternative process photography, each of the five artists brings something different to the exhibition. Some are staying as true to history as possible, like John Coffer with his “real-deal-ferrotype-tintypes”. At times, you could see one of John’s images and believe that you were looking at something that was made in the late 19th century. Others are going as far from history as possible, like Pat Bacon and her agricultural photogravure images. They were shot on her iPhone, printed using photopolymer plates, and buried in layers of encaustic wax.

"AND 2" by Romy Hosford (left) and "Seeing is Forgetting #3" by Jenn Libby

“AND 2″ by Romy Hosford (left) and “Seeing is Forgetting #3″ by Jenn Libby (right)

In an exhibition that is looking toward the historic with its feet planted in the contemporary, it is interesting to think about the work of both Jenn Libby and Romy Hosford. They both use memory and history as a vehicle to explore their own interests. In Romy’s salt prints and cyanotypes, she explores notions of metaphor, femininity, identity, and anxiety. While Jenn takes on the role of a documentarian, capturing bits of cultural ephemera and abstracting them through a wet plate collodion process. Asking us to reconsider the objects we are looking at in her work.

"On Looking Up, 3" by Ian Sherlock

“On Looking Up, 3″ by Ian Sherlock

Going back to the planning stages of this exhibition… I was visiting the annual Made in New York exhibition in April, 2016 at the Schweinfurth in Auburn and was struck by an abstract-leaning image of the sun and clouds, taken by a pinhole camera by Ian Sherlock. This image stuck with me for a while and was the inspiration for wanting to do a show on alternative processes. From there, it was figuring out how far down the rabbit hole I wanted to venture and it has truly been an educational experience for me.

Lastly, speaking of educational experiences, we have a tintype demo scheduled with John Coffer at the gallery on April 1st (no foolin’!). You can learn more, here. I hope that you can find the time to come and explore the work in this exhibition, it  runs through the end of March.

 

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Jenn Libby

Jenn’s artwork is on view in “Alternative Photographic Process”. Her work is available for purchase in our Online Shop:
store.mainstreetartsgallery.com


I’m an artist who has worked primarily with the wet-plate collodion photo process since 2005.  Invented in 1851, wet-plate collodion was used to make ambrotypes, tintypes, glass negatives, and lantern slides.  It was the predominant photo process for several decades and was used to document the American Civil War.  This challenging process requires a darkroom on hand because the photographic plate stays wet during the exposure and must be developed immediately.

Self-portrait in Hungerford Studio, 2016, ruby ambrotype

Self-portrait in Hungerford Studio, 2016, ruby ambrotype

I learned (and later taught) the wet-plate process at the Visual Studies Workshop when I was working on my MFA in visual studies.  I’m from the U.P. [Upper Peninsula of Michigan] originally but I’ve lived most of my life in Rochester, NY, a city rich with photographic history and resources.  My interest in creating photographic objects is what led to my interest in learning the versatile collodion process.

The Cluttered House, Collodion positive transparency, 2005

The Cluttered House, 2005, collodion positive transparencies in jars

My thesis exhibition, The Cluttered House, included collodion images on glass in jars of water.  I didn’t know how long they would survive but I still have a number of the jars with the images still intact 12 years later.  My more recent work, Record, is made up of many tintype photograms mounted and displayed in vintage film developing hangers. While less sculptural than my jars, there is still a more tactile quality than photographs on paper.

Installation view of Record, 2011, Tintypes in film developing hangers

Installation view of Record, 2011, Tintypes in film developing hangers

I started making photograms in the darkroom with the wet-plate process during the winter months because of lack of natural light for in-camera work, before I had started shooting with artificial lights.  I could use the light from my enlarger to create these camera-less images.  When I saw the results I was hooked. Unlike a cyanotype or gelatin silver photogram, the trace or shadow of the object appears black instead of white.  Shadowy figures and objects emerge from the ether, and developing imperfections create a background with texture and depth.

Cowboy, 2011, Tintype

Cowboy, 2011, tintype

Like many artists, I’m a collector.  My work explores memory and the impulse to (re)collect.  Almost all of my artwork (I also make artists’ books and small gauge films) starts with objects and images in my collection.  The Cluttered House installation grew out of three objects I took from an abandoned house many years ago—a cigar box, an old children’s book, and a young woman’s diary.  For Record, I started recording bones, toys, glass items and other natural and man-made objects—small fragments of the 20th century.

Kodak, 2011, tintype

Kodak, 2011, tintype

The photogram of a translucent blue vinyl 45rpm record (with the aptly named track, Holiday on Mars) was the image in Record that led to my next series, Seeing is Forgetting.  I began making square photogram tintypes using primarily round objects, many of which were glass.  The images in Record are generally identifiable objects.  With Seeing is Forgetting I am transitioning into the abstract and hoping the viewer will look at the image and not at the object that I recorded.

Record (Holiday on Mars), 2011, tintype

Record (Holiday on Mars), 2011, tintype

I liked these tiny celestial and cellular looking images and an old map cabinet was the perfect place to encase them.  It speaks of collections, particularly those used for study, education, and display. I am very much influenced by cabinets of curiosity, the precursors to our modern day museums and archives.  What drives people to collect?  What drives them to record their lives?

Seeing is Forgetting, 2014, tintypes in map cabinet

Seeing is Forgetting, 2014, tintypes in map cabinet

I was curious to see how these images would look enlarged.  I printed out a 16”x16” test print and liked it, but decided it needed to be bigger.  I ended up having six of the images printed as 30” x 30” ink jet prints and incorporating them into the series with the map cabinet.  I love the intimacy of the small objects, but I also find the large prints to be exciting in a different way.  By changing the scale I remove the image further from the object that made it.  Oddly, with these large prints, I found myself moving away from remembering and into being present.

#3, 2014, inkjet print

#3, 2014, inkjet print

Here are a few images to illustrate my wet-plate shooting process.

In this first image I am pouring collodion onto a thoroughly cleaned and polished piece of black glass.

Pouring the plate

Next, I take the plate into the darkroom and put it in a bath of silver nitrate.  It will stay here for 3-4 minutes as the plate becomes sensitized.

Sensitizing the plate

Sensitizing the plate

I take the sensitized plate, now in a light-tight plate holder, to my 8×10 camera to make the photograph.

Inserting plate holder

Inserting plate holder

After making my exposure I take the plate back into the darkroom to develop it.

Developing the plate

Developing the plate

After developing and rinsing I can take the plate into the light to fix it.  After fixing, the plate will be thoroughly rinsed, dried, and varnished.

Fixing the plate

Fixing the plate

As for my physical studio space, I’ve been in transition since last summer.  After spending a few years working out of the Hungerford building, I decided to convert my garage into a new studio.  It’s a beautiful space with a large darkroom, lots of natural light, and access to the outdoors.  I forgot to mention that the collodion process is sensitive to ultraviolet light and it is a slow process akin to a film speed of ISO 1, which means it requires a lot of UV light.  Shooting outdoors is often the ideal option.  I’m really looking forward to spring and starting new work in my new space!


Stop by Main Street Arts to see Jenn’s artwork in “Alternative Photographic Process” (runs February 25–March 31, 2017). Visit her website at www.jennlibby.com for more information on Jenn’s wet-plate portrait studio and workshops. Follow Jenn on Instagram @geneseelibby and like her Facebook page at Genesee Libby Studio.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by photographer Ian Sherlock.

Inside the Artist’s Studio with Ian Sherlock

Ian’s artwork is on view in “Alternative Photographic Process”. His work is available for purchase in our Online Shop:
store.mainstreetartsgallery.com


I make photographs, sounds, and drawings centered around the land. I studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and Syracuse University in Upstate New York where I earned my BFA in Fine Art Photography. Upon graduating, I worked as a professional printmaker at Lightwork and have recently made the move to further my understanding of “natural” environments by leaving for a job with the Boy Scouts of America in the Green Mountains. I play in a punk band, run for lengths of time that cause my organs to fail, and make art from time to time.

Self

Photography is the medium I work in most for my art.  I am always seeking calmness and stillness and photography aids in the preservation of this quality. It creates tranquility, which is something I appreciate. I photograph primarily in black and white as I like the simplicity of only looking at/for light, shadow, and contrast versus color relationships. Working in greyscale also removes the image from reality even further, as I am not interested in documentation but rather using photographs to describe and evoke feelings, moods, and metaphors.

photo

Most of my images are shot on film as it elevates the medium to the same level of preciousness as the subjects that I am photographing. This process slows me down, makes me think more completely, and allows me to spend more time looking at and interacting with landscapes or subjects versus firing the shutter blindly. Post-image making, film allows me the ability to make prints by hand, in a more intuitive and intimate fashion. Working in the darkroom engages my hands and helps to synchronize mind and body in the same way my other practices like running do.

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Photography’s other strength is that it can exist on paper, as opposed to mediums like sculpture or video. Prints are tangible and can either be considered disposable or precious merely by their presentation. In particular, photo books have an incredible ability to encapsulate a completed work that a photographer is trying to express. This is appealing to me as I like projects that have a definitive conclusion.

A photo book can also evoke a certain sense of preciousness and intimacy. Looking at a book is usually a more private experience and it is on the terms of the viewer.

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My creative interests originated in my early involvement in the punk scene. While the “Do It Yourself” ethics of punk fundamentally aid in all of my endeavors, they are displayed most explicitly in my sound art. I hesitate to consider my sound pieces “music”, but the aggression, tension and vulnerability that is present in my work stems very much from the punk music I grew up immersed in and continue to listen to today. My introduction to sound art has also allowed me to interact with an entirely different audience, as I am able to share this category of my work at concerts with people unfamiliar with or uninterested in contemporary visual art.

sound

Like in my other mediums, interaction with the land is crucial in my sound art. I usually start with an experience in a “natural” environment or use field recordings from a place. I then utilize synthesizers, various re-purposed pedals, contact microphones on objects and cassettes to add an atmosphere that I feel best represents the feelings I have in those spaces that is not necessarily there to record.

I am growing increasingly interested in the relationship between sound and image and how I can better blend the two mediums into a synonymous and singular project.

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I don’t have a studio per say, at least not in a physical form. Much of my time thinking, reflecting, and conceptualizing is done while running. To me, running is very much the same as art making. While I run to come up with ideas to make art about, sometimes the run itself is the action and resolution to those thoughts or feelings. It is a medium of equal importance and possibility as a visual or sonic art. The meditative repetition and direct interaction with the land puts me in a deep inner space where I can reflect and conceptualize. I also race in events called ultra-marathons; which consist of distances that are longer than marathons. When I push myself to these limits, I feel a unique form of vulnerability and explore parts of my own mind that I feel are unreachable otherwise.

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The project I have most recently concluded is called “Dearheart”. “Dearheart” represents my personal fantasies of escapism, and an understanding of our society’s universal fascination with this idea as well. More specifically, I’m interested in the evidence of how this notion of escapism has manifested physically in the landscape itself, transformed in the wake of our endeavors to be transported, and to escape. The land has similar desires to us when it comes to escaping, solitude, and the act of hiding. I believe my consideration of this relationship creates a stronger connection between myself and the spaces I occupy. The process of making these images is an attempt at better understanding this relationship and I hope to translate my efforts to others the best that I am able.

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Stop by Main Street Arts to see Ian Sherlock’s artwork in “Alternative Photographic Process” (runs February 25–March 31, 2017). Visit Ian’s website at www.ian-sherlock.com and follow him on Instagram @iansherlockxvx. You can email Ian at iansherlockxvx@gmail.com.

Take a look at our previous Inside the Artist’s Studio blog post by Rochester artist Rachel Cordaro.