Tuesday, August 04, 2009

APIS/Santa Fe

Every other year there's a couple of day alternative process conference in Santa Fe and I was able to cobble enough travel related points to do it pretty cheaply so I went. It's the first time I've traveled by myself in a long time, and the wife had to lean heavily on the in-laws to keep everything going on this end but we made it work. Luckily the baby is extremely cute so people don't seem to mind looking after her too much. :-)

It's a good time for me to think about different directions I could go, readjust priorities, etc. Santa Fe's also a major art center (hundreds of galleries) and it's a great time to catch up on trends, etc. I think the single largest factor was reaffirming that I want to get serious about large format for a bit. I have everything I need for the next couple of steps, but I'd eventually like to be able to do wet plate collodion and not just film and I'll have to think about how much I want to invest in all of this. Wet plate in particular isn't something to do lightly - some people produce some really crappy results and use process artifacts to try to introduce interest to their crappy photography but the process is capable of technically wonderful prints... but only with a lot of practice. For a sense of what these look like check out Luther Gerlach's ambrotype gallery. I got to see him make a few including the darkroom bits - very cool!

Another highlight is that some folks are trying to figure out how to handcoat silver gelatin prints. And yes, if silver gelatin (i.e. a regular black and white darkroom print) was presented at APIS that means you're an alternative process. Sigh. Anyway, see The Light Farm for instructions. If you're a darkroom printer and are whining that they discontinued your paper or that you can get the wonderful papers of old (environmental concerns re massive use of cadmium killed some papers) take charge and learn to make it yourself. The results are stunning. Right now the focus is on contact paper but dry plates and some film have been made too. I'm tempted - I think it might be a serious contender for a big 2010 project - but I need to think about the details... keep in mind that these processes never really went through a handmade stage - they were industrial from the beginning - and the conventional wisdom is that nobody will ever pull this off. Guess what, conventional wisdom's wrong yet again.

What else was cool... seeing Luther Gerlach's 22x30 inch wet plate collodion camera, seeing carbon prints being made (lovely prints but I think I'm going to let them get the bugs worked out first), some great information about daguerreotypes (more on their structure and preserving them versus making them), and just generally being reminded that yes, other people do make this stuff.

Folks came from Finland and Brazil so I can't complain too much about the logistics of getting there but it was a bit rushed and I didn't do a whole lot that wasn't art related. I fit in a bit of tourism but it was pretty much all hitting galleries and museums. I haven't looked at the pictures yet - I'll probably post more hail pictures but that's about it. If you want a bit of tourism info for the area I think all of my notes from last time on my much neglected travel/hobby site are still accurate except I think it's more like 250 galleries, and I'm not sure that Andrew Smith still has both locations.


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