[Alt-photo] IS IT ALT?

Bert Kuijer gemeentehuis at gmail.com
Wed Nov 14 22:21:51 UTC 2018

Dear Alt-photo-process-listeners,

Whenever I come across this kind of (interesting) discussions, I instantly
think back - with a smile - to an article from 1998 by Judy Siegel
(1930-2017), called:

*"Yes, Post-Factory Photography"*

"*On the internet they call it alternative photography, although the
conventional wisdom has it that all silverbased media will soon be
“alternative”. Academia likes the term Non-silver Photography (title of the
course I taught), although some of the processes use silver, which maddens
the literal mind.*

*I use to call it croocked photography, in the sense of not straight
photography, intol straight alternatives like platinum printing became
prominent. (I was also warned that “croocked” might attract the wrong
sort.) Another term, “extended photography”, is so inclusive it seems too
inclusive for our purposes; “classic” and “handcoated” don’t go far enough.*

*But by any name, the strange bedfellows of this relativity new phenomenon
circle the globe, from the fine-detail fiends of platinum and palladium,
and the view-camera virtuosos who stalk the wilderness with handheld
computers, to the coat-it-with-a-broom acrobats of the mural cyanotype, and
the toy camera crowd who can’t start a shoot until they tape up the light
leaks of their Diana. *


*The movement embracing all these minds, methods and materials is probably
undefinable, but no matter. It all happens after the factory, hence for the
purpose of this publication." (i.e. World Journal of Post-Factory

It was originally published in her wonderful magazine, called: "The World
Journal of Post-Factory Photography", issue #1 (April 1998), page 1+ 2.

With kind regards,
Bert Kuijer from Holland

Op wo 14 nov. 2018 om 16:42 schreef Christina Z. Anderson via
Alt-photo-process-list <alt-photo-process-list at lists.altphotolist.org>:

> Dear All,
> I don’t know if I can add anything to the discussion except my opinion.
> The term was definitely coined in relation to those who turned away from
> big box stores (Kodak) gelatin silver paper so in spirit it actually meant
> “alternative” to commercial interests. It was intentional to practice
> photography in a different direction, like a “movement.” Or so I read,
> since I wasn’t part of this movement. Maybe not as groundbreaking as
> Picasso and Bracques adding bits of non-painting material to their
> paintings that threw everyone for a loop (but “mixed media” is pretty easy
> to define).
> Then the term stuck. Any photographically related imagemaking means of
> photography other than commercial gelatin silver paper was alt. Xeroxing
> was alt. I’ve got all the alt books I think ever printed (including the
> experimental BW photography ones, too, some from an earlier time). One of
> these days when life settles I can go chapter by chapter and list all the
> processes under the term; that would be interesting!! Even then it seemed
> every book had a different slant and a different set of processes included
> (though the usual suspects were cyanotype, vandyke brown, platinum, gum).
> Today “alternative” has a much more loaded meaning so alt-pro is a bit
> awkward, but in the spirit of being an alternate choice to mainstream, it
> still applies.
> When Focal Press asked me to be an editor for the Contemporary Practices
> in Alternative Process Photography series (their title), I just bit the
> bullet and lived with it because that cow is out of the proverbial barn,
> although I think “handmade print” is a bit more appropriate. However,
> “handmade” would imply that digital is not handmade or even “machine made”
> and that is awkward (arggghhh). There are those who say a digital
> photograph is not a photograph because it is not written by light, and
> technically there’s truth in that, that in photography we have strayed from
> the original meaning of the word. It is a print. But the difference between
> a digital print and a print hand-pulled from a press is sure big even
> though they both have the concept of multiples!
> So now in the spirit of “alternative to mainstream” gelatin silver is. But
> even I would have a hard time thinking buying a box of Ilford and printing
> BW prints is “alt” and certainly, historical gelatin silver prints were not
> and should not be alt.
> I teach an experimental darkroom photography class and alt as two separate
> distinct classes, but so many experimental darkroom things have changed
> that I am thinking of adding salted paper to that class (and making your
> own BW paper from Denise Ross’ upcoming book) so it becomes a silver
> nitrate based class, so there’s that confluence of alt into gelatin silver.
> Bromoil has always been a component of that class, based on gelatin silver
> paper.
> And I have Clay Harmon’s soon to be release Photopolymer Gravure as part
> of the series which is essentially printmaking based on a photo-sensitive
> layer. So now we have the confluence of three areas: printmaking, BW, 19th
> century processes, etc. etc.!
> Historians are going to have a theoretical heyday with deciphering this
> while we all just go on making work, but I know many of us (I do) struggle
> to explain what we actually do to those outside the field.
> Chris
> Christina Z. Anderson
> Editor, Contemporary Practices in Alternative Process Photography Series <
> https://www.routledge.com/Contemporary-Practices-in-Alternative-Process-Photography/book-series/CPAPP
> >

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