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Thread: Alt Processes - Got Voodoo?

  1. #1

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    Alt Processes - Got Voodoo?

    With all the pyromaniacs around here, how many of you are using so called "alternative processes" for your printing?

    Surely many into pt, right? And what about ziatypes, argyrotypes, carbon, and the rest? Any "gum shoes" around here? How do you think your version stacks up to the "silver standard"? I've read accounts of people looking at images who remark "why would anyone spend all that money just to have something that looks like cra*p!" as well as accounts stating how the inkjet conquers all. Where do you stand on it?

    Got a story about an "aha - now it works!" ? or a "hmmm, there is something to this!"?

    In my journeys, at times the most elementary alt process gets troublesome when attempting it by instructions only ( the costly way for sure! ). Today, I decided to use up a half bottle of argyrotype sensitizer. I figured all my other attempts with it actually did look like cra*p in a sometimes charming way - so why not us the whole thing up? With contempt for the stuff, I poured on twice the recommended sensitizer and then worked it in with rod. Serious contempt here - hung it up to dry for an hour. Well I'll be - exposure times were shorter than Centinnial POP, and a tad less than palladium with the same neg, however the image came out a lovely matt chocolate with a vibrant quality to it. I was amazed at just how charming it was. ( I'm stil not giving up the silver standard though ). So I tried a couple of "normal" negs that would have required dodging and burning to get the clouds in the sky - hey - that worked great. Maybe there is something to the old ways or at least modern convenient versions of them. The crummy argyrotype, the "Playskool" of alt processes so to speak, actually beat my scanner at capturing highlights.

    While I have to make regular modern process images as part of what I do, in the "spare" moments I explore a bit of the alt stuff , and try some of those boxes of stuff I picked up while browsing the photo store. It's a sort of alchemy or perhaps even a voodoo for lost and zombified images. Do you, Voodoo?

  2. #2
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Re: Alt Processes - Got Voodoo?

    Yes, I'm finding albumen printing to be addictive--for the self-masking properties with landscapes and the look I'm getting with portraits.

    I think the insight I've had recently is that it's all about combining hard and soft. A soft lens looks best with hard light or a contrast filter. Sharp images look great in albumen.

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    Re: Alt Processes - Got Voodoo?

    David - then might we say that you're an "egg beater" ? Do you start with eggs? From "chicken scratch"?

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    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Re: Alt Processes - Got Voodoo?

    I do start with eggs, because I like to cook and can always find uses for the yolks, though it may not be so great for my cholesterol. There's a great book by Helen McCurry and Jacques Pepin called The Other Half of the Egg with lots of recipes for only egg whites or only egg yolks.

    Of course it's easier to start with powdered egg whites, if you would rather not deal with separating dozens of eggs. On the other hand, someone I know who uses powdered egg whites told me that his albumen mixture develops a smell after a while, and I've kept mine in the refrigerator for months, and it seems to stay fresh.

    I make the albumen mixture with only organic egg whites, sea salt, and distilled white vinegar, so that part of the process is all non-toxic, and I can make it with ordinary kitchen utensils and store it in the refrigerator without worrying about the food. They tell you to beat the egg whites for albumen printing in a glass bowl, but I use a traditional copper bowl, because that's just what one uses for egg whites, and I haven't had any contamination problems.

  5. #5

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    Re: Alt Processes - Got Voodoo?

    I've found separated egg whites at my local Publix supermarket. They come in small cartons similar to old milk cartons and are stocked near the regular eggs. They seem to be very convenient for making albumen.
    juan

  6. #6

    Re: Alt Processes - Got Voodoo?

    Geez. Eggs? I've got enough problems with humidity and zias. But the mystery of ziatype, it's tonal range and color in a direct contact, I like - not that there's anything wrong with silver....or albumen....or whatever.

    Then there's digitography. Great fun when I sit down and help my cousin crop her snaps into gooder pics, eliminate the redeye, change the hues - but her photo-graphy ended when she pressed the camera button, when she entered the future.

    You think?

  7. #7
    Scott Davis
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    Re: Alt Processes - Got Voodoo?

    I've become a Palladium addict. It isn't for every image, to be sure. But there is something beyond magical about a contact print from an 8x10 neg in pure palladium - the rich warm chocolate hues, the creamy highlights, the infinite gradation in the skin tones on a portrait, that gives it this three-dimensional quality. Makes you want to just reach into the image and touch things.

    I had to thrash around a bit at the beginning to learn the process, but now that I'm getting the hang of it (many thanks to the class I had with Carl Weese!), my exposures and my prints are much more under control, and one of the great things about these alt processes is that once you get your negatives right, there's no more fussing around with burn this, dodge that... your cost per finished print might actually go down, because your test print-to-finished print ratio decreases as well.

  8. #8
    Donald Qualls's Avatar
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    Re: Alt Processes - Got Voodoo?

    I've been doing some van Dyke brown prints and salted paper experiments, so far mostly trying to find the right paper that won't cause trouble by reacting with the silver solutions. I've done cyanotype for a couple years, and I'm working on finding a smoother paper to be able to do cyano with a high level of detail and "smooth" appearance, since it's (in my experience) so much more tolerant of the support.

    Of course, I try not to do *too* much of these, because they make me realize my 4x5 cameras are too small...
    If a contact print at arm's length is too small to see, you need a bigger camera. :D

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    Re: Alt Processes - Got Voodoo?

    I used to make van Dyke brown prints and cyanotypes. Those are two of the easiest alt processes I know of and the results can be very nice. Then I spent major time and effort with gum printing. However, I eventually concluded that a process that requires multiple exposures and processing, where each exposure must be in perfect registration with the previous ones while using a material (paper) that shrinks a little each time it's processed, was something only a masochist would enjoy.
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  10. #10

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    Re: Alt Processes - Got Voodoo?

    Quote Originally Posted by Ed K.
    I've read accounts of people looking at images who remark "why would anyone spend all that money just to have something that looks like cra*p!" as well as accounts stating how the inkjet conquers all. Where do you stand on it?
    I print almost exclusively with alternative processes, primarily carbon, but from time to time with kallitype, palladium, and vandyke. Hand made prints, or past-factory printing as some call it, intrigues me, and is empowering because the printer is in total control of the medium and not at the mercy of the marketing decisions.

    Also, and just for the record, no one has ever looked at one of my carbon prints and told me "that looks like cra*p," or even just plain crap for that matter. And if you ever have the chance to see a well-made carbon print you would understand why. I would say the same thing about many well done alternative prints made by others, regardless of process. Silver has some distinctive characteristics but many of us prefer the image characteristics of one or another of the alternative processes.

    On the other hand, I would be one of the first to admit that a very large percentage of alternative work does fall into my own personal category of "crap," but not because it is alternative, but because it is poorly executed alternative work, by people who don't take the time to master the process being used.

    Sandy

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