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Alternative Photographic Processes - (Hand made photographic -emulsions and processes)

While there are various interpretations on what alternative processes (or what are sometimes called hand made emulsions) are, for this resource it means:
photographic processes that use photosensitive emulsions, which sit outside the traditional commercial materials, and processes commonly available. This usually means mixing chemicals from base, applying to a support base, exposing and processing.

Cyanotypes, Van dyke brown prints, Salt prints, Platinum, Lactate Acid prints, Gum bichromate etc. are among some of these processes. During the development of photography into the processes we know today, nearly all of these processes were discarded in preference for more modern processes that were able to record the scene being photographed in a more realistic manner with materials that could be used quickly and cheaply. However, in recent years there has been a renaissance of interest in the aesthetic that these processes can produce. Searching for information on the processes can reveal a wide range of variations and often it is worth noting that no one recipe or description can provide all the answers. My suggestion for anyone wishing to use any these processes in their work is to continue to research and refine the process for their own needs.

Many of the recipes and methods contain general information, or wrong information that tends to get recycled. Workers who do unearth the finer details often guard them. Remember the basic photographic principals of light darkening the emulsion usually hold true.

To use some of these processes successfully you may need to do considerable research and experimentation. When Kate Mahoney, one of of BFA students first began with gum bichromate it just would not work, after researching more than a dozen sources the answer became clear. All previous methods suggested exposing the paper to sunlight, often for various times. But it is actually UV that sets the emulsion, and depending where and at what time of the year you are working, UV can be quite variable. Kate found that exposure to strong sunlight created gross over exposure. What was needed to make successful prints was diffused sunlight.


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