[Alt-photo] Re: Process or filter?

Kees Brandenburg workshops at polychrome.nl
Wed Mar 27 11:14:07 UTC 2013

Wow, this link triggered some discussion!

I have been thinking a lot about the status of the photographic object recently. This is mostly due to the fact that I have been printing an edition of carbon prints in my studio with, at least in the Netherlands, well known photographer Erwin Olaf and his assistants. These carbon prints are now on display in two galleries in New York and London together with large format C-prints from his 'Berlin' series.

While printing we discussed a lot about the photographic object and the importance of things that are 'hand made' at their own pace. He noticed also that when concentration drops, things go wrong and that time is a factor one has to respect. And all is visible in the resulting print.
The fun of the mastering was evident in these sessions when they learned gradually how to print carbon themselves. A well made carbon print from the work of a good artist really is something  that stands out.

The two galleries went almost crazy when they heard about the carbon prints. One even wanted to skip all the other works and do a carbon only show. The fact that these images that floated innocently in my trays are now on display at crazy prizes, I even don't want to know, almost feels like an alchemistic transformation...
From image to object with an intrinsic artistic value, clearly visible, to an object with a market value. This left me with a lot to think about.

Also, last autumn during the Unseen photo fair in Amsterdam I attended a discussion, pretentiously announced as  "The Future of Photography". Several curators, magazine editors, gallerists, and Colbergian style photobloggers were present at the table. No photographers (!).

What I recall from this somewhat chaotic discussion is what one of the bloggers said about the status of the photographic image nowadays. He mentioned the number of photo's published per hour on flickr, facebook and the like. I forgot it, but it was enormous. He stated that these images in fact have replaced written language in communication on social media. People post images, not, or very few, words. A totally new way of visual communication is emerging. But with this new visual language illiteracy is also enormous! The bulk of image making lies here! Is this illiteracy frightening, do we have to take this serious? Does this change the way people perceive photographic images? Does this exploding bulk of imagery have any relation with art?

Then came Tate Modern photography curator Simon Baker who broadened and redirected the perspective. He accentuated the importance of the object as work of art (for a museum) and the way it is made. He also showed some collotypes and other outstanding prints and talked about the necessity to keep the knowledge how to make them alive.

Then someone else talked about another important photographic object:  the photo book. In a vanishing book selling market the photo book seems to survive. We all know these important books from the past and nowadays stunning new ones still are published.

What to think of all this? The screen, the book, the print, all with their own status.
My own conclusion: I like the fun of mastering a process, learning it to others, and maybe by doing this we are the avant garde of the new photographic object!
But beware of the gallerists!


PS I also downloaded the Hipstamatic tintype pack . This is really funny! Go try it.

On 27 mrt. 2013, at 02:48, Mark Nelson <ender100 at aol.com> wrote:

> Actually I agree with his primary point.  The final object you come up with will not be great, regardless of how well you may have mastered a process if the image sucks.  Just because a mediocre image is printed in platinum doesn't make it great.
> However, I love the nuances that many alt processes may add to an image.  And of course there are the look and feel of the fine papers.
> And there is also the fun of mastering a process and using it to make prints, but that is something else.
> Or am I missing something?
> Best Wishes,
> Mark Nelson

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