Book Review: Photography Beyond Technique
Book review by Brittany Brock
Photography Beyond Technique: Essays from the F295 on the Informed Use of Alternative and Historical Photographic Processes brings together thoughts from a wide variety of working artists. What I found most interesting about reading this book was comparing the different sentiments that drive these artists to use historic and alternative processes.
In the essay There is No Command Z Robb Kendrick writes,
“The tactile nature of many historic processes gives the creator a connection to a physical object that is forged from passion, sweat and serendipity that cannot be replicated in the digital environment.”
Like many of us, Kendrick is pushed to use historical processes because of how each collodion pour can show the hand of the artist and the labor used to produce a single plate.
But, the handmade quality of the final image does not drive all of the artists represented by this book. Sometimes it’s the conversation that happens between digital photographic and historic processes, or the dream-like quality of a long exposure, or, for others like Jo Babcock, it is in the construction of the actual picture-making device that drives the work.
Babcock has created over one thousand simple cameras out of materials varying from paint cans to vehicles. In Babcock’s eloquent essay he states,
“Such a direct photographic approach fills me with an awe and fascination that I imagine must have captured the early phototropic pioneers.”
In addition to the explanations offered by each artist as to why he or she is drawn to use historic and alternative photographic processes, this collection of essays is also full of historic information about different processes and their lineage. A portion of Alan Greene’s essay Imaginary Whole-Plates or, Notes Towards the Reinvention of Photography examines the origins of photography starting with the sun’s ability to patina wood or change the color of leaves, then continues onto historic dyeing methods that produced purple cloth with the help of a yellow light sensitive liquid collected from mollusks mixed with salt water.
While some artists enjoy historic processes because they can transform a photograph into a relic, others are drawn to the sense of wonder that capturing an image can create, and then there are those are who find the intersection between art and science irresistible. Photography Beyond Technique: Essays from the F295 on the Informed Use of Alternative and Historical Photographic Processes is a strong collection of essays because it showcases so many diverse perspectives.