About this time last year, I was experimenting with origami pinhole cameras, with both photographic paper and black card (with film). What interested me, was how a simple manipulation of the medium allowed it to become a complete means of image-making.
Further experiments involving zone plates and camera-less photography, as well as a meandering train-of-thought, lead me to ponder the possibility of a photographic image that was capable of reproducing itself, ad infinitum. The notion posited a kind of photographic quine that is at once original, reproduction, and apparatus.
Deeper contemplation lead me to the realisation that if an image of a zone plate of “normal” perspective could be made at 1:1 scale, using identical zone-plate optics, then the image could be used to reproduce produce itself. (It wouldn’t practically matter if the image produced was positive or negative, as the zone plate could still work optically.) In the real world, of course, the number of “generations” would be limited by creeping image degradation, leading to “sterile” images that could no longer “reproduce”, but the conceptual basis of the process is certainly intriguing enough.
Further experiment pending.
In doing some further research regarding photographic technologies (more on that to come), I noticed a resurgent trend in online articles related to older, so-called “alternative” photographic processes.
Mike Ware is a rather retro-focussed photographer (in both subject and processes) who has published significantly on the topic of what were once mainstream, archival photographic processes, which are now almost treated as novelties. In addition to his books and essays, his website also includes a kind of archive of historic processes, including detailed instructions, hints, and an awful lot of background, on a range of rediscovered photo-alchemy. It would be a great starting point for those who are curious about progressing beyond silver-gelatin.
Of course, no post on alternative photography could be complete without a mentioning the abundant resources at Alternative Photography. Here, you’ll also find in-depth information and advice, and keen enthusiasm.
I will be the first to admit that, as anything other than a genre and body of photographic practice, and perhaps as a particularly mobile and public art-form, the world of fashion is a dark continent to me. It is then, perhaps, simple naïveté that leads me to the broad and less-than-complementary opinion that fashion is a shallow art, and that the industry that shares its name concerns itself with the skin of an image, stuffed with an awful lot of hype.
This – and the prospect of shooting fashion images as part of a project on “lifestyle” – lead me to meditate the possibility of utilising a projector to cast that “skin of an image”, and to convincingly conjure the illusion of clothing, onto some suitable mannequin or model. I concluded that it ought to be plausible both as a photographic technique and as a reflexive critique on fashion and fashion photography. Now quite excited at the prospect of playing with a novel technique, I fired up Firefox, and set about researching projection as a studio light source.
Lighting setup with projector and illuminated, white background.
Fashion got there first. In fact, the technique I had independently “discovered” can be traced back to John French‘s fashion work with projected patterns – in the early 1960s. More recently, Eva Mueller and Sølve Sundsbø, among others, have made use of digital display projectors to produce a variety of effects. In 1995, Droga5 pushed the technique, using a battery of upto ten projectors as part of a campaign promoting “light injected” Puma L.I.F.T footwear.
And I thought I was so very clever and original.