[Alt-photo] the alt family tree

Kees Brandenburg workshops at polychrome.nl
Mon Jul 24 15:54:58 UTC 2017

My start with alt printing, more specific gum, was around 1988/89 after finding the two Darkroom books by Lustrum Press (with alt examples) and off course (!) Crawford's “The Keepers of Light”. . That start year was a relevant one 1989 - 150 years after 1839, Daguerre and Talbot. A lot of photo magazines wrote about those early years and in the slip stream there was a reviving  focus on techniques from the past. At that time I was teaching photography at CREA, creative workshop division of the Amsterdam University. The courses I gave were not alt, but we did a lot of darkroom then with shooting, processing and printing B&W. When I organized my first experimental Gum workshop it was an immediate succes. At the exhibition three gum prints were stolen!

In 1994 my wife (textile designer) our son (two and a half then) and I moved from Amsterdam to Middelburg, capital of the province of Zeeland where we looked for more space to live and work and found a big studio. I also started to concentrate on photoconservation and wrote a preliminary photo conservation report for the Provincial Archive of Zeeland. I started at the same time with alt. workshops, as an independent artist and teacher, and I never stopped ;). 

Around 1995/96 I found ‘the list' and got me a simple second hand mac. My first computer! Connected the little machine immediately with the internet (33.6k dial-up!) to get in touch with ‘the rest of the world’! Wow, what a revelation finding all that available knowledge and people… In 1997 I visited APIS in Bath, organized by Terry King at the Royal Photographic Society and met many, many list members in real life!

> ... there seem to be quite a few people from the Netherlands practicing alt ….

Yes there are! There’s a large tradition that started at the end of the 19th century and also in the 20th's and 30th’s both amateur and professional. The archives of the Leiden university have a large study collection with alt prints from those years and after. The collection can be viewed at the reading room and curator Maartje van de Heuvel regularly organizes exhibitions. Artists like Harm Botman, Helena van der Kraan and many others worked with gum, cyano and other techniques.. Among the more contemporary artists I should also mention Witho Worms who is an excellent carbon printer. And since a few years we have had an enormous outbreak of wet collodion! There is a revival going on among art school students, and workshops. i have been in contact with and advising many throughout the years.

For me personally several occasions in the past where important:

Being able to have my first personal show in 1987 (BW baryta) in France at the Rencontres Photographique in Lorient, Bretagne, followed by another show in 1989 in Arles at the off-festival scene organized by a group of former students from the Arles Photo School.

It was in Lorient where I met several pro printers who worked for well knowns photographers. It was an eye opener: talking with people who only concentrate on high quality hand printing! There i also saw platinum, gum and Fresson prints, and met the people behind them, and I saw absolutely stunning B&W baryta prints! In Arles I met many photographers, it was simply great to be there and be part of it…

In 1995 and 1997 the Naarden Photofestival in the Netherlands organized demonstrations of alt. printing. i was asked in both occasions to show my way of gum printing. Other people showing there were: Richard Farber, who lived in the Hague at that time, showing carbon and carbro, Roger Kockaerts, platinum, Mieke Bijleveld, heliogravure, Jan van Leeuwen cyanotype and kallitype, Michiel Kort, photorestauration and salt, Peter Bersch, daguerreotype. With a selection of these people and some others we continued to have regular alt. meetings on various locations in the Netherlands.  With Richard Farber I had long phone calls while he worked on his book mostly about bromoil. In 1995 i also met a group of alt. printers at an exhibition in Dordrecht. Among them was Theo de Rijke who worked at the royal academy of art in the Hague where he introduced these techniques to students. He also organized a show in the academy where i participated with gum prints. With the same group we where at a show in Genk Belgium in 1997 organized by Eddy Willems. There I also met Jean Jansiss and talked with him about his way of printing ‘gum' with Terre de Cassel and PVA glue.

I should not forget to mention my first little mac! It was followed by several newer and faster machines and i discovered the world of digital imaging, high quality (B&W) printing and at a very early stage I started with digital negatives. As I love tinkering with photographic processes i enjoyed the technical side of digital world and computers. It was fantastic to print B&W with the first PiezographyBW plugin, very quickly followed by QTR which was still a very crude command line tool in those early days.

In more recent times i concentrated on carbon printing and on techniques that avoid dichromates. I call them Zerochrome techniques. For now they consist of : casein, carbon, oil printing. It all started with the Chiba Print thesis by Halvor Björngård and regular contact with Halvor. Chiba printing is done with ferric salts. Later I concentrated on working with diazidostilbene (DAS). I am very grateful for the help I got from Charles Berger who revealed a lot of secrets about printing with DAS and ultrastable. I also have an ongoing and very pleasant e-mail contact with Stig Gustafsson from Finland who was very generous in helping me with all kinds of knowledge and materials. He has even sent me some original ultrastable tissue…to reverse engineer (sorry Charles)

In carbon i try to further elaborate the technique, i started with dichromates followed by DAS. I have also worked, since 2011, with dutch photographer Erwin Olaf who spent many weeks here in the studio while we worked on his series Berlin, Joods and some self portraits in carbon who were on show in New York, London, Paris and Amsterdam.  I consider myself as a pigment/colloid printer in the first place. I started with gum and bromoil, discoverd cyano, kalli- and slt/albumen, and now mainly work with carbon. i recently discovered polymergravure. Even bought a beautiful press for it…

Remarkable thing to notice after all those workshop years: alt. workshops keep attracting people from all over the Netherlands and abroad, Belgium, Germany, UK. And it’s still great fun and an honour to have them here.


PS  I should not forget it’s still a pleasure to be your host, maintaining this list since 2009 together with Gord. How old fashioned can a mailing list be these days, but what an excellent signal to noise ratio we have...


More information about the Alt-photo-process-list mailing list