[alt-photo] Re: an alternative to alternative

Diana Bloomfield dhbloomfield at bellsouth.net
Sat Mar 31 18:10:17 GMT 2012

Hey Chris,

That's a really good question.  Sometimes, I think the use of  
"historical" in the place of 'alternative' (?) is not an altogether  
bad idea.  The problem with that is, it makes us sound like we're  
entrenched in the distant past and not really on the "cutting edge"--   
of anything.  Not that the cutting edge is the be-all and end-all, but  
I know how printers who choose silver gelatin printing (over digital)  
are viewed--at least in my area--so I can only imagine how  
'alternative' printers are viewed.

But I agree that the problem with 'alternative' does, as you say, make  
one ask-- alternative to what??  And the term always makes me think of  
'alternative lifestyles,' too.  It's just confusing and doesn't  
explain anything.  It just sounds like a big euphemism for something  
we'd rather not discuss.   I also agree that, as photographers/ 
printers, it really does pigeonhole us.  "Hand-applied"  seems about  

Ultimately, the ideal would be not to have to use anything specific  
like that.  We're all photographers, and there are various ways to  
print, and ours is just one way, so why even make a distinction?  By  
using these terms, we persist in creating this divide and certainly  
set ourselves up for being 'different.'  That could be good, but I  
think doing so mostly isolates us (and suggests we somehow think we're  
'better than'?).

I've had so many conversations with my gallery owner here about this,  
and while he shows a ton of printmaking (mezzotints, monotypes, etc),  
and certainly makes distinctions there-- he is insistent that with  
photography, it doesn't really matter how an image is printed (nor  
what camera was used-- which we don't typically point out)-- what  
matters is how strong the final image is, and how it resonates with  
the viewer.  He admits that the WAY in which an image is printed is  
certainly part of the final look, of course, but he maintains no one  
really cares-- ultimately-- about the specific printing method.  Yes--  
he's a real gem-- but, sadly, I think he's speaking the truth.

So . . .  my sense is that those courses should simply be under  
Photography, and you could call them "Hand-applied Photographic  
Printing Processes," to separate it from digital printing-- and, then,  
in the description mention which processes that particular course will  


On Mar 31, 2012, at 11:35 AM, Christina Anderson wrote:

> Dear All,
> A philosophical question that I probably won't formulate well:
> I've been having this discussion lately about the use of the word  
> "alternative" in alt. The question is, alternative to what? Also,  
> that it is an outmoded word. It doesn't mean anything. It has other  
> connotations today. It pigeonholes us and isn't popular with  
> gallerists. We are no longer "alternative" to the Big Yellow Brother  
> as Kodak is bankrupt and anything goes nowadays. Etc. etc.
> We just went through this ridiculous process of common course  
> numbering at our university so that courses are named and numbered  
> the same across the state if the course taught is the same. My  
> course is now called "Alternative Photographic Techniques." because  
> I couldn't come up with anything pithy, although I wanted it to be  
> Contact Printing Processes.
> The question: is what term are you using, or does "alt" continue to  
> be sufficient? I thought what better group to ask than 500 alt  
> listers.
> Chris
> Christina Z. Anderson
> christinaZanderson.com
> _______________________________________________
> Alt-photo-process-list | http://altphotolist.org/listinfo

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