Our current exhibition, “Alternative Process,” juried by Texas Photographic Society President Amy Holmes George, showcases alternative process photographic work. We live in a digital world. Photography is no exception where darkrooms, one-offs, and three-dimensions are practically unheard of. It is a rarity to see the hands-on, often one-of-a-kind, slow photography work (think daguerreotype, palladium prints, cyanotypes, etc.) that contribute to the alternative processes genre. “Slow photography”
– I thought I had a rush of brilliance when the phrase hit my brain earlier today, only to find out Norwegian Photographer Johanne Seines Svendsen was the first to use it, in January of 2013 (this, according to Wikipedia). Nonetheless, slow photography remains the perfect term to describe the collection Amy Holmes George curated.
What are the characteristics of slow photography (the term is still open to interpretation, however we might benefit from a general discussion)…
I think first of process. Stop before you “expose.” Sometimes your subject matter or a short window of opportunity makes speed a necessity, but not always. Digital imaging has allowed us to take plentiful-10s and 100s of images at a time (we’re all guilty of this easy pleasure!); we have the assumption that we’ll capture one or two worth archiving from the snap-happy lot. Perhaps we should slow our processes. Maybe stop, take a few extra minutes, look, think, walk around, crouch down, try a different lens, notice how the light might be changing, acknowledge our intent and consider whether our choices are in support of that vision.
Even if “slow” is not your style, compel yourself to put on the brakes on occasion – it affords the opportunity to shoot mindfully. Slow shooting, slow processing, slow editing, slow printing – each step to a final work may benefit by a thoughtful, deliberate approach.
The work we’re featuring currently at PPG will inspire a change of speed for sure. It’s a must-see-in-person collection of one of a kind photographic art works from 35 international photographers. They’re all made with alternative processes – historic and contemporary hands-on methods of photography that are largely devoid of evidence of the digital age (correlation – speed). These are methods incorporating film, wet plates, solarplates, caffenol, salt, silver nitrates, egg whites, gumoils, vegetable dyes, and the list goes on. From the daguerreotype to cyanotype, kallitype to mordancage, this is the type of work that takes work, and most certainly time!
On your way through Middlebury, do stop. Better yet, join the scads of art lovers combing the streets for the Middlebury Art Walk tomorrow, Friday, July 10, from 5-7PM. Bring the scads in with you – all should experience the fruitful labors from what are rapidly becoming the lost arts of traditional photographic methods (and their contemporary experiments). If you’re unable to make it in on the 10th, the exhibition is up through July 24th – slow yourself down to take a look!