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The Resurgence of Alternative Process Photography: The Old is New Again

By: Bostick and Sullivan

As cameras become ever more automated and most photographers never process or print their own images; a select group of photographers are looking for a more personal self- expression. They are finding the alternative antique and hand made processes the perfect way to interpret their images reflecting more about them as an individual. With the advent of digital photography a print can be made without getting ones hands dirty, strangely this has stimulated the urge in many to make photographs by hand. They are intimately involved in the selection of materials and the crafting of the final print.

For half a century the alternative processes were considered obsolete. If you did want to make your image in one of the antique processes finding the materials was difficult. Twenty-five years ago virtually all fine arts photographs were made with silver papers provided by large companies like Eastman or Agfa. These companies have long ago eliminated the alternative materials from their catalogs. Today the Internet has made possible small niche businesses to fill in the gap left by the big companies and the alternative processes are thriving once again. Schools are taking advantage of the availability of materials for the antique processes and offering classes; these include Platinum/Palladium, Van Dyke, Cyanotype, Gum Dichromate, Kallitype, carbon and more.

There has also been a tremendous growth in galleries selling fine art photography. This expanded market has increased competition among galleries and photographers. Today handmade alternative process photographs are commonly being sold in galleries and again considered a highly desirable photographic medium by collectors for their beauty and permanence.