Does this count as alternative process?

Discussion in 'Alternative Process' started by Joanna Carter, Oct 27, 2018.

  1. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    We are getting too pedantic :D I read it as you trying to emulate a "look" or feel rather than an exact process.


    Not all processes are equal :D

    I've just surfaced from the darkroom and a couple of hours printing and 2 excellent Exhibition images, there's something far more satisfying than making digital prints, you are part way there as you processed E6

    Over the years I've been heavily involved in Digital imaging mostly for work no way can I equate a little digital manipulation with the skills needed for alternative processes. We can play infinitum digitally with no or skill, there's always the undo button.

    Now I'm not someone really into alternative processes, aside from dipping my toes into Platinum/Palladium printing, I've used other processes but the way I work isn't really suited to them.

    If I was in your shoes I might actually go down the alternative root, no enlarger is needed, you could easily make Digital Inter-negatives and then contact prints. Albumen pints are beautiful and easy, and lead to the huge increase in soufflé in France, but there's plenty of other easy processes, little equipment need just a contact frame and a dish or two, sunlight helps :D

    Ian

    Ian
     
  2. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    Ian's right. You've tried to get a particular look and we seem to agree that you've done it. It will be interesting to see your further experiments.

    The "real photography" path has been very well trodden elsewhere. It doesn't seem wise to dig the furrows any deeper.

    On the other hand, we can all be tolerant. Let a hundred flowers blossom, as a famous man once said.
     
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  3. Joanna Carter

    Joanna Carter Active Member Registered User

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    For you maybe.
    I also process B&W, using N+ and N- development where required, in order to obtain the very best negative for scanning, just as I would if I were making negatives for darkroom printing.
    You seem to be saying that what I am doing is a "little digital manipulation", without realising the process I actually go through when I am creating a print from an LF negative.

    Take this image :

    GlyderauWaterfall.jpg

    It was taken by my friend Helen and she supervised the preparation of it for printing, not being particularly computer savvy herself. She started out by measuring the range of the scene and determining that it would require N-2 development; so she exposed it with that in mind and we processed the film accordingly. The small digital file shown here is unable to demonstrate that there is detail right down into the deep shadows as well as individual sprites of water being clearly distinguishable.

    This took us around three evenings to prepare for printing. I started by optimising the scan, to give me the fullest dynamic range and greatest level of detail. Then I had to create around a dozen or so masked curve layers in Photoshop, in order to either accentuate or reduce contrast where needed. It involved the same level of planning and manipulation as if I had been using a multi-grade paper and head on an enlarger.

    It also involves leaving the image to one side overnight to see if it still looks as intended the next day; then sometimes starting all over again because something isn't quite right.

    A 30 x 24 print of that picture now takes pride of place on our dining room wall and is a subject of much admiration from visitors, both photographers and otherwise.

    I can assure you that the sense of satisfaction in achieving such a result is every bit as great as when I used to do my own darkroom printing.

    The big difference from darkroom work is that it doesn't cost paper and chemicals in printing test strips and even full prints, which can only be judged when fully dry. Or maybe it's because I don't have to throw money away on paper and chemistry that seems to raise the ire of diehard darkroom printers. Maybe they feel that it is important to not only spend time and expertise but, also to empty one's bank account. Or maybe it's because I don't have to torture myself going through the same printing plan every time I want to produce a print. :rolleyes:
    I can safely say that I have never been interested in making small prints, even from 35mm film. One of the main reasons I got into LF was because I wanted to make extraordinarily large prints. To my mind, a 5x4 contact print is not worth the time, effort and cost, however minimal.
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2018
  4. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    We seem to be in danger of conflating personal preference with general principle.

    If I may add a comment. The amount of work involved in making something bears little relationship to its quality. Nor does the cost of the process or the equipment.
    I refer my learned and honourable friends to Ruskin v Whistler.

    And another: This forum is nominally about large format. We are remarkably tolerant of images made with other and literally lesser formats. If we can be inclusive at one end of the process, why not the other?
     
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  5. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    Joanna, I never suggested making small prints or 5x4 contact prints, I don't even do contact prints from my 10x8 negatives preferring to print larger.

    When it comes to making a print there are different approaches in the darkroom to achieve quite similar results, it's the same digitally. I don't doubt you saying you've used many steps to locally alter the example you posted.

    I think you are misusing the term "process" which is a repeatable series of steps to achieve a certain result, extremes would be the alternative processes. Localised controls are more about craft than the process chosen whether it's a darkroom print or computer file.

    Ian
     
  6. Joanna Carter

    Joanna Carter Active Member Registered User

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    OK Ian, I give up. According to your own personal definition of alternative process, it has to involve printing on paper, coated with some light-sensitive chemistry of one's own concoction.

    But as an alternative to what? Does that also exclude using "regular" photographic paper that comes pre-coated? What about those who develop "normal" paper in coffee? Does the developer have to be a certain brand to be considered "normal"?

    Is the process of scanning or photographing digitally a print to show it in this forum not a violation of your principles? The very process of digitising an image to show on an Internet forum invariably involves some manipulation of the acquired image in order that it appears as close as possible to the original print.

    In which case, I shall desist from posting images in your "holy of holies", which this section appears to be; even if I were to indulge in such dark arts, I certainly wouldn't want to be accused of "digital manipulation" just to present my efforts.

    Apologies to everyone else for my prickly reaction to Ian; I really didn't expect such a limited interpretation of the words "alternative" and "process" and such a belittling of the effort I put into my "alternative process", which is a process and is an alternative to working in the darkroom.
     
  7. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    We seem to be discussing words now.
    A process is a series of actions or operations, no matter what they might be. When we couple it with the word "alternative" we now understand something different – that it describes various ways of making images, by various methods. (An example: York denotes one thing, but adding the word New denotes something else.)
    We have specific names for particular methods – cyanotype, platinum and so on. There is no such thing as an alternative print as such. No moral value attaches to any of these and nobody owns any particular word.

    The word "craft" has connotations of manual dexterity, which are not appropriate for darkroom work. The dexterity required in the darkroom is trivial. You press a button and a machine does the rest. You might have to hold out your hand or a piece of card, but in essence, if you can make a cup of tea and a sandwich, you have all the manual skills that you need.
    The skill lies not in doing it, but knowing what to do. There's a parallel with chess.

    If Joanna had said "another way" instead of "alternative", we might not be indulging ourselves in this discussion.
     
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  8. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    Ian's right. You've tried to get a particular look and we seem to agree that you've done it. It will be interesting to see your further experiments.

    The "real photography" path has been very well trodden elsewhere. It doesn't seem wise to dig the furrows any deeper.

    On the other hand, we can all be tolerant. Let a hundred flowers blossom, as a famous man once said.
     
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  9. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    I returned to the beginning of this thread.
    "Does this count as an alternative process?" was Joanna's headline. Then she describes trying to emulate the appearance of earlier processes without using ready-made presets. This isn't quite the same thing.
    The answers are:
    No, it's perfectly conventional, if virtuoso, digital processing.
    Yes, it does successfully emulate an earlier process.

    Ian.
    "All processes are not equal" needs some rigorous justification.

    My comments seem to be posted out of order. I apologise. It may because I post from two different machines.
     
  10. JimW

    JimW Member Registered User

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    Joanna - yes, by anyone's definition, you produced an image by an alternative process. But I bet we make a cup of tea differently, you and I. We use an alternative process to produce a result that WE like. As it happens, I really like your images, but you did not produce them for me. I absolutely love the image that you and your friend produced, but you did not produce it for me.
    Do you like what you did? Did you enjoy the way you spent YOUR time and YOUR money to produce what you wanted to produce? Then yar boo sucks (or any alliterative equivalence) to any mutha else.
    I am jealous of most of the images produced here, produced by process that are alternative to the way I work. The particulars will change, the generalities will generally be similar.
    If we presume to declare one process regular, and another alternative, perhaps we should have very good reasons why. And who is qualified to list regular/alternative processes? Nay, not I.
    I do like the images, and love the one of the falls. Thanks for posting.
     
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  11. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    Joanna, it's not my definition of alternative processes it's a widely accepted term among photographers, gallery curators, collectors, etc, to cover alternative light sensitive processes rather than conventional silver gelatin based prints (B&W or Colour).

    Digital image editing and printing are themselves the processes, yes there are many alternative ways of manipulating an image to achieve wildly different results but that's not really a separate process requiring a physically different approach, different materials, equipment, chemistry etc.

    No-one here in this thread, including myself, has said there's anything wrong with emulating "alternative processes" or some aspects of them digitally.

    I'd refer you to Martin's early reply which is simply put:

    Ian
     
  12. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Active Member Registered User

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    David, an example would be making a digital "Cyanotype" style print, that uses conventional digital processing and printing of a digital (or digitised) image, no extra skills needed, no special negatives, papers, chemistry, equipment etc, and no learning curve.

    To make a genuine Cyanotype requires non standard darkroom chemistry, contact frames, denser and higher contrast negatives than conventional printing. So in this sense with an inkjet emulation and a genuine Cyanotype the processes used aren't equal.

    Again that doesn't mean there's anything wrong if someone wants to emulate a process digitally.

    Ian
     
  13. Joanna Carter

    Joanna Carter Active Member Registered User

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    And, just as with a cup of tea (I sometimes make a lousy one), sometimes I struggle to produce a decent print from what seemed like a good idea when I exposed the negative. Fortunately, with a digital to analogue printing workflow (Ilford's Lambda printer) it doesn't cost me anything other than the sheet of film and a drop of chemistry to decide whether it is worth sending to be printed :)
    Very much :cool:
    With a Yorkshire heritage, that is really quite important ;)
    Heheheh :p
     
  14. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    Ian,
    The processes are not the same. Agreed. The connotations of the word equal mean that it requires more exposition. At present, it's mere assertion. Only the Pope is allowed to speak ex cathedra and not everybody believes him.

    I've made cyanotypes. Bish, bash, bosh. There's your blue print. It didn't seem to involve any special dexterity.
     
  15. JimW

    JimW Member Registered User

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    I wonder if the fault lies in our acceptance of someone else's definition of 'alternative process'. It seems to me that any printer (darkroom or, alternatively any other process) has their own process that they use to produce an image. Then someone resurrects an older process, and calls it alternative. And then we accept their definition and call it alternative. I suggest that we need not accept their unnecessary distinction if it doesn't actually help us.
    Some one so much wiser than me, on whose shoulders I freely acknowledge I stand, said 'Does it do for you what you want it to do for you? Then why do you seek my approval?' I appreciate approval might not be the issue here, but how one achieves one's own satisfaction has nothing to do with anyone else.
    This reply might be out of sequence, but for me it boils down to one's own personal journey to one's own personal 'happy place'. Imposition of other people's philosophy on oneself is anathema - to me.
     
  16. Joanna Carter

    Joanna Carter Active Member Registered User

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    :)
    Indeed. But, as Helen has just reminded me, we take photographs because we like taking photographs and we tend to only keep the ones that we would be proud of showing to others.

    But, sometimes, when we show them to others, their reaction can be so negative (and in the case of some other photographers, destructive), which can be quite disconcerting at times and can cause us to wonder why we ever bothered to take up photography in the first place.

    Personally, my attitude to such criticism tends to be (to quote our resident bard) "yar boo sucks", someone else, somewhere else, absolutely loves it, warts and all :p
     
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2018
  17. JimW

    JimW Member Registered User

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    Approval can be tempting, I agree. The desire to conform, the desire to be accepted for what one does, is similarly tempting. But it bars personal progress - to my mind. My progress is vital to me, perhaps interesting to others. When I make the mistake of believing other peoples lies (e.g. that's not the accepted definition, that's not a success) then I am trapped by others' limitations.
    Yar boo sucks. (The Bad Bard.....)
     
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  18. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    Alternative means "other." Strictly speaking, it means the other, not all others.
    When photographers use the word, coupled with the word process we mean something different, as is common with word combinations.
    We currently understand it to mean making prints by processes that don't involve projection printing and are not digital either. It's a loose definition. Many contact printers construct digital negatives, for instance. Privately, I think this borders on cheating, but I'd never say it out loud. We must be tolerant and inclusive, however much it hurts.
    Going down the Humpty-Dumpty way – "When I use a word it means what I choose it to mean..." helps nobody.

    And sometimes, negative critics can be right. I urge my camera club friends, freshly seething from some aggressive judging, to be grateful that they've come across a radically different point of view. They don't always accept this gracefully, of course.
     
  19. Joanna Carter

    Joanna Carter Active Member Registered User

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    Thank goodness our camera club is not a member of the FPF (Fédération Photographique de France), nor do we have viewing sessions with "judges". Instead, we project our photos and people can comment on them; we also make it plain that there are no "rules" of picture composition, like the dreaded thirds or lines from corners.

    Yes, the more experienced among us do give advice but one of the first questions we try to ask is "are you satisfied with the image?"

    Unfortunately, very few members print their images, but there is another photo group in the Paimpol area where the print still reigns supreme and, once again, there are no "judges" ;)
     
  20. David M

    David M Well-Known Member Registered User

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    We once had a very good lunch in Paimpol. It took a lot of walking to recover from the Calvados. The couple on the next table had a small dinghy filled with seafood.

    Peter Goldfield used to ask:
    "What were you trying to do?"
    Did you achieve it?
    Was it worth it?"

    Do you never have some respected non-member along to discuss the work? You might be missing something. Once a year, perhaps? I'm not suggesting marks or the accursed thirds.
     

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