As a professional photographer I have not pursued alternative processes for developing my film. There is no specific reason for abstinence. As you might guess I know quite a few people who are masters at a variety of processes: bromoil, gum-bichromate, albumen, cyanotype, kallitype, etc.
After going through Alternative Photographic Processes (left, Focal Press, 2015), I might need to venture out of my comfort zone. The Featured Photographer in this issue of Shadow & Light Magazine, Diana Bloomfield, uses the multi-layered gum-gum-bichromate process.
“This particular process offers me real creative freedom and seems to mesh well with my images, Diana said, “which remain wholly interpretive and suggestive in nature. The repeated layerings (and the often slight mis-registrations of those layers) are meant to add a tonality and a saturated richness, yet each layer added also serves to remove all the hard, clearly defined edges and sharp clarity. A softness and ambiguity results—much the way we see and remember.”
In the Introduction to the book, Jill Enfield writes that Brady Wilks invites us not to think about alternative photography as historical techniques.
“Think again, because Brady Wilks is here to tell you otherwise. Finally, a book about ALTERNATIVE ways to compine all aspects of photography and printmaking.”
Produced in a format that is easy to read and follow, we are faced with 10 chapters that have very descriptive titles: Capture Techniques; Film and Transparency Manipulation for Wet Lab Processes and Scanning; Substrate Acquisition and Considerations; Substrate Manipulation; Transfers and Lifts; Print and Image Manipulation; Appropriated Art, Collage, and Cameraless Imaging, Waxing, Encaustic, and Resins; Installation, 3D Object photography, and the Performance, and Alternatives to Finishing and Presentation.
As you can see this is a very comprehensive book that not only presents a wide range of material, but offers that same material without weighty technical jargon and endless ramblings about methodology.
“Rather than creating a dense manual that bogs the reader down in chemistry, formulas and convoluted instruction, Wilks’ book provides a broad scope that introduces the user to processes with a procedure that will provide early success that, if the artist so desires, can be refined over time. While the book provides ample inspiration for even the most tenured alt-pro master, it does not, at all, intimidate the novice user.” (Amazon. com)
With wide margins and a blank page after each section, Wilks has left enough room for those of us who might need to take notes as we go. He has kept the reader at the forefront of the project. There are many illustrations by practitioners of this art-form included in this publication including, Geoff Delanoy, Jonah Calinawan, Kitty Hubbard, Blue Mitchell, Beth Devillier, David Emitt Adams, Dan Estabrook, and Mark Osterman.
What truly sets this apart from its brethren is the fact that not only are a myriad of processes explained and demonstrated, but Wilks also takes us by the hand and show us where we can go from “here.” The last chapter contains sectionson Print finishing and Coatings, Framing, Handmade Portfolios and Presentation Boxes, Projections andDisplays, Alternatives to Signatures.
This is a well-rounded book that should, ultimately, finds its way to your studio and into classrooms to be used in addition to tech manuals and step-by-step-by-step-by-step boring page tuners that too many of us have never finished and are living out their days in a dusty box somewhere in the corner of the garage.
Alternative Photographic Processes is a compelling read and creative instruction manual that will become wrinkled, dog-eared and chemically stained, as it should be.