Back to basics – experiments with inkjet dyes

Devolution of the image taken to its basics.
Cameraless photography and alternative processes often imply analogue and old chemical-based techniques. I was around in the days that this was ‘normal’ photography. To make a photograph you *had* to use light-sensitive paper and smelly chemicals, so that doesn’t seem alternative enough anymore. These experiments are part of a longer exploration of the alternative as contained in digitally based photography. The idea of digital alternative processes is also not new, but is probably less explored, and less accepted (and some might say less aesthetic).

Much has been made of the differences between analogue and digital photography and the supposed mystique that comes from dabbling in chemical processes. Anyone who has processed film or watched an image appear in the developer bath can attest to that magic.
However, there are analogies between the two as well. Much is made of the electronic nature of digital and an implied inferiority. But where we now have pixel-based sensors and the microdots of inkjet printers, we had film and paper grain. Where we had an enlarger and contrast filters etc, we now have digital renditions of those tools which can replicate and expand on the tonal variations that we were familiar with. We even find the need to digitally ‘spot out’ dust in the form of sensor dust and dead pixels.

Going further into the experimenting that has occurred since almost the beginnings of photography, we can look to early photograms such as Anna Atkins in Cyanotypes of British Algae (1843). Perhaps more interesting to me is the ongoing disruption of images and experiments that push the boundaries of photography, from the experimental processes of Běla Kolářová, various artists who have worked with polariod emulsion manipulations, and direct constructions (Gary Fabian Miller, whose work almost attempts to define light itself) and attacks on the base materials – eg unique chemigrams and the use of natural intervention (Susan Derges) in the analogue area and the inkjet print manipulations of Marco Breuer and the various digital experiments of Thomas Ruff.

All this is to set up a way to ground the following images in a historical continuum. Whether or not they are still photographs is an interesting question in that it interests me after the fact but only tangentially during the making. If you quickly come to the conclusion that they are not, just make sure you have looked at the work shown in a recent Victoria and Albert Museum show Cameraless Photography (link is to the book published by Thames and Hudson), or a previous show they had called Shadow Catchers (link is to a review).