Art & Art History
photography, art history, alternative process photography, chemistry
The first permanent photograph was created in 1826 by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. To do this, he coated light sensitive chemicals on a metal plate and exposed it in a camera obscura (a box with a small hole; a “pinhole camera”). Once the plate was properly exposed to light, he used more chemicals to stop the plate from being light sensitive and make the image permanent on the plate. Throughout the years, many photographers and chemists used many different chemicals, materials, and procedures to create permanent and beautiful images (i.e. Daguerreotypes, Calotypes, Heliographs, etc). With each new process, the previous processes became obsolete because the newer ways were cheaper, quicker, and more accessible to nonprofessionals.
As a photographer who started in film (and having almost no knowledge in chemistry), the antique photographic processes intrigued me. At The University of Rhode Island, the only photography courses are Digital Photography and Black and White Film Photography (using silver halide negatives and gelatin silver prints). Knowing that there are more than just two photographic processes, I wanted to expand my photographic options and also learn more about the science of photography. Each antique (now called “alternative”) process creates a different effect than that of black and white film and digital, and they all have their own unique aesthetic.
This semester, I have worked with and researched different processes and created images using these processes. In doing so I now have experience with and access to more processes, I have a greater understanding of the chemicals used in photography and the science of photography, and I can expand my photographic aesthetic using each of these processes.This project also dovetails with my English major, because I have written a simplified how-to guide for the processes that I worked with so more people can have access to alternative process photography. Through this project, I have found a new love for a different medium of photography, I have expanded my photographic capabilities, and I will certainly be incorporating alternative process photography into my future work.