Alternative Photography Hack Chat

Silver isn't silicon

Wednesday, October 2, 2019 12:00 pm PDT Local time zone:
Hack Chat
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Pierre-Loup Martin joins us for the Hack Chat on Wednesday, October 2, 2019 at noon PDT.

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Join Hack ChatIt seems like the physics of silicon long ago replaced the chemistry of silver as the primary means of creating photographs, to the point where few of us even have film cameras anymore, and home darkrooms are a relic of the deep past. Nobody doubts that the ability to snap a quick photo or even to create a work of photographic genius with a tiny device that fits in your pocket is a wonder of the world, but still, digital photographs can lack some of the soul of film photography.

Recapturing the look of old school photography is a passion for a relatively small group of dedicated photographers, who ply their craft with equipment and chemistries that haven't been in widespread use for a hundred years. The tools of this specialty trade are hard to come by commercially, so practitioners of alternate photographic processes are by definition hackers, making current equipment bend to the old ways. Pierre-Loup is one such artist, working with collodion plates, hacked large-format cameras, pinholes camera, and chemicals and processes galore -  anything that lets him capture a unique image. His photographs are eerie, with analog imperfections that Photoshop would have a hard time creating.

Join us as Pierre-Loup takes us on a tour through the world of alternative photography. We'll look at the different chemistries used in alternative photography, the reasons why anyone would want to try it, and the equipment needed to pull it off. Photography was always a hack, until it wasn't; Pierre-Loup will show us how he's trying to put some soul back into it.

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 2

    Dan Maloney10/02/2019 at 20:02 0 comments

    Kelly Heaton12:43 PM

    Very cool!

    Pierre-Loup M.12:44 PM
    I use a press camera bought on ebay for almost nothing... yet very handy !

    Pierre-Loup M.12:44 PM
    It's a Busch Pressman 4x5".


    Polaroid SX70 / 600 back

    This a system is based on a Busch Pressman 3x4" press camera. The original standard back for film holder has been removed, and replaced by a falt base. The instant back has been made from a malfunctioning SX70 instant camera, which only the ejection system has been kept.

    Read this on Hackaday

    anfractuosity12:45 PM

    Pierre-Loup M.12:46 PM
    And I use an enlarger lens on it, without shutter. Wet plate is quite a slow process, with pauses over a second under sunlight.

    Pierre-Loup M.12:46 PM
    Thank you @Dan Maloney !

    anfractuosity12:46 PM
    ah, so becaue you use an enlarger lens, it's a fixed aperture, or..?

    Pierre-Loup M.12:47 PM
    Some other "cameras" I made :

    Pierre-Loup M.12:47 PM
    No, is has aperture blades like any other lens. But no clicks on stops.

    anfractuosity12:48 PM
    ah, gotcha

    Pierre-Loup M.12:48 PM
    And it's a rather crispy lens, which gives something I like : the look of an old process, but with a definition far superior than ols photography. :)

    Pierre-Loup M.12:48 PM

    Kelly Heaton12:49 PM
    when you buy your plates, are they just ordinary glass?

    Pierre-Loup M.12:49 PM
    And of course, the reason why a large format camera is used is that the camera has to be the size of the image we want.

    Pierre-Loup M.12:50 PM
    Yes, you can do wet plate on ordinary glass.

    Pierre-Loup M.12:50 PM
    But two other supports are mainly used : aluminium with black coat, and acrylic.

    Kelly Heaton12:51 PM
    Basically, a material that is non-conductive and won't react with the chemicals..?

    Pierre-Loup M.12:51 PM
    Both have a better sticking of the collodion coat, and both provide the black background, so you don't have to paint or mount the plate to view it positive.

    Pierre-Loup M.12:51 PM
    Yes, exaclty.

    Pierre-Loup M.12:52 PM
    Actualy aluminium reacts with chemicals. The silver bath has to be maintained more often.

    Kelly Heaton12:52 PM
    what is the largest plate that you (or someone else) have created?

    Pierre-Loup M.12:53 PM
    Some people like making things big !

    Kelly Heaton12:53 PM
    And how do you deal with the left-over / spent chemicals? How do you safely store and dispose of them?

    Pierre-Loup M.12:53 PM
    The largest silver tank I've made was for 50x60cm plates...

    Pierre-Loup M.12:53 PM
    This must be a joy to look at !

    anfractuosity12:54 PM
    i like the look of this camera you've made - i would like to make something like that some time that uses 120 film, for something like ~6x17 images maybe

    Pierre-Loup M.12:54 PM
    (I've just that we are talking about wet plate, but maybe you don't know what it looks like...

    Pierre-Loup M.12:55 PM
    I personnaly stay low on the size. I like to have to be close to look at the details. So no more than 13x18cm for me.

    Kelly Heaton12:55 PM
    @Pierre-Loup M. unfortunately, I have to run... I'll look at the transcript. Thanks so much for this info!

    Joaquín de Prada12:55 PM
    They look amazing... it has that american civil war look

    Pierre-Loup M.12:56 PM
    Ian Ruther has turned a truck into a lab AND a camera.

    Pierre-Loup M.12:56 PM


    The Lake Prints


    Read this on Ian Ruhter

    Transcript will be posted on the event page:

    Pierre-Loup M.12:57 PM
    Yes, the civil war was mainly shoot with wet plate !

    Read more »

  • Hack Chat Transcript, Part 1

    Dan Maloney10/02/2019 at 20:01 0 comments

    Pierre-Loup M.11:58 AM
    Hi all, and welcome !

    Pierre-Loup M.11:58 AM
    Let me briefly (or at least try to) introduce myself.

    I start hacking at the age of 3, using LEGO. At that time I didn't know there would one day be a name for it !

    I've played with model kits, then with model planes, which teached me patience, how to craft something out of raw materials, and a deeper foray into hacking : before the era of 3D printing, modellers were very good at repurpose spoons, pans and other every day life objects into parts for their scale planes. I believe they still are.

    Unsurprisingly, my college years were devoted to mechanical engineering (although not an enginner), and following them I've worked a few years in aerospace, namely on a private jet program, the Dassault's Falcon 7X.

    Then came photography. First digital, then analog. Then I discovered that historical photographic processes were still practiced by some, and my curiosity led me to try some of them, like cyanotype, and wet plate process. I've also played with film and paper (with or without cameras).

    I soon needed to have tools for these processes, and I started to make some for my own use, then for peoples on fora, and eventually started my own (very small) business.

    So, today I will try to share what I know about analog photography, historical processes, how you can use it in unconventional manners, how a camera can be design, and so on !

    Jack joined  the room.12:00 PM

    Welcome all, thanks for coming to the Hack Chat. I want to thank Pierre-Loup for joining us today and jumping right into our Alternative Photography chat.

    Welcome, Pierre-Loup!

    Pierre-Loup M.12:01 PM
    Thank you for having invite me !

    anfractuosity12:01 PM
    Hi! i'm wondering, you mentioned cyanotype, for that process, do you use a respirator and what other protection?

    Pierre-Loup M.12:01 PM
    I don't. Bad example.

    anfractuosity12:01 PM

    Is that the one with prussic acid?

    anfractuosity12:02 PM
    isn't it very dangerous though?

    Pierre-Loup M.12:02 PM
    Cyanotype chemicals are quite innofensive, unless you make it hot.

    anfractuosity12:02 PM

    Pierre-Loup M.12:02 PM
    Above 65°C, potassium ferricyanide can turn into cyanide. Andthat is bad. :)

    Pierre-Loup M.12:03 PM
    cyanotype makes prussic blue, but you don't use prussic acid.

    Pierre-Loup M.12:03 PM
    (but maybe you can make some if you mess with it !)

    anfractuosity12:03 PM
    if you get it on your skin though, is it not harmful?

    Pierre-Loup M.12:03 PM
    I've made cyanotypes with children under 8.

    Pierre-Loup M.12:04 PM
    No, no problem.

    anfractuosity12:04 PM
    oh interesting!

    anfractuosity12:04 PM
    i really didn't realise that

    Pierre-Loup M.12:04 PM
    Ammoniacal citrate is used as a ferric complement in alimentation for sport...

    Pierre-Loup M.12:04 PM
    of course you've got to be sure they don't eat it. :)

    Joaquín de Prada joined  the room.12:05 PM

    Is the cyanotype process similar to the process for blueprinting?

    Pierre-Loup M.12:05 PM
    And be carefull with clothes. stains don't go once dry.

    Pierre-Loup M.12:05 PM
    Yes !

    Pierre-Loup M.12:05 PM
    There were several formulas used, and for industrial blueprints I believe this is slightly more complex, to make it more stable.

    Pierre-Loup M.12:06 PM
    But same principle.

    Thought so - my mm did blueprinting with us when we were really young, like 8 or 9. Lots of fun


    Pierre-Loup M.12:06 PM
    Welcome to Joaquin de Prada, with is another photographic hacker ! ;)

    Pierre-Loup M.12:06 PM
    Yes, I love to do cyanotype with chlidren !

    Joaquín de Prada12:06 PM
    Hey Pierre-Loup!

    Pierre-Loup M.12:07 PM
    They usually look at you with big eyes, don't understand anything from the moment you coat it on paper, then go under the sun...

    Pierre-Loup M.12:07 PM
    But when they see the image appear under water, everything lights up !

    ... Read more »

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