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Alternative Photography Project Answered

I am currently in the Advanced Photography class at my high school. One of the assigned projects is simply titled "Alternative Photographic Technique." Basically, we have to create an image without using 35mm film (not digital, either). The specific techniques that he recommends are:
  • Photogram-arranging objects directly on the photo paper, without using a camera at all
  • Holga- The teacher has a few Holga cameras with 120 film for class use to take artistically lousy images
  • Pinhole Camera- If you don't know what this is, you probably can't answer my question anyway.
  • Cyanotype- a special emulsion is painted on watercolor paper, then exposed in sunlight under a large transparency. Search "cyanotype" to see what it is.
  • Polaroid image transfer- an image taken with a Polaroid Two-Step camera is transferred from the film to watercolor paper-looks cool, but expensive

Can anyone suggest other interesting ideas? I'd like to keep it simple and inexpensive, and I have to have 8"x10" total printed image.

Weissensteinburg? Are you there?

Edit 5-12-08: I have printed some 5x7s with my cool new technique. I matted them today, and I turn them in on Thursday.


Simple, the earliest form of photography is when it was noticed that sun effects things. For example fading clothes and causing a sunburn. 2 ideas, First get a negative from a transparency. It works better with a laser printer.....tape that to your skin and allow a small sunburn to take place. When you remove the "negative" transparency then you will have the image on your skin for a short time. Please note that exposure to the sun can cause skin cancer. Second Idea take a xerox of anything on a transparency. Find a piece of dark construction paper (it must be cheap) and tape that to a piece of cardboard. Then attach the transparency to that. Stick it in the window of your car for about a week and the sun will fade the areas of the construction paper that are clear and keep the dark areas dark. You will have a faint image on the paper. If you want it to look real the transparency does NOT need to be a negative. I have done this one with my students as well as making a negative and using news print which fade in the sun pretty fast. Good luck.

Let see if basics work here a media that is not the usual a perfectly sealed shoe box with a tiny tiny hole in one of the short sides a media to show you could do it, paper that has made light sensitive with some material, let us say invisible ink solutions. Now you will have to make it visible sometime and for that a liquid that is acid, like grape juice you put it in an oven CHECKING it and in the an you bathe it in a solution of coffee. Theoretically it will be a sepia photograph.

idea 1: 3-color photogravure, using galvanic etching of copper... check out my forum threads for info... idea 2: take a room with a large white wall opposing a window with a good view. block ALL light to the room with cardboard.... cover the white wall with blueprint paper (diazzo), working in the dark... open a tiny hole in the window's covering for 3 hours or so, and develop with windex. idea 3: try using bluefire murano 127 film in an old kodak brownie, for retro fun. idea 4: tilt-shift

I actually just thought of something interesting, the problem is I can't remember who the artist I based all this on but basically it involves a few to a few hundred photos to make one big photo, the idea is that take all the photos from very roughly planned places and arrange them one a board, I'll get some photos of the outcome of this, granted I never completely finished the project you can see what I mean.

There used to be a similar project that was assigned, but apparently it frustrated too many people, so it ceased to exist. It required using one roll of film per picture. After selecting your subject matter, you would carefully take a long series of photos of the subject, all with the camera being aimed from the same place. After developing the film, it was all laid out on a single piece of 8x10 photo paper, and a contact print was made. If you lined up your shots correctly, the frames would line up, and the entire sheet would be the finished image. My sister did it as a project when she was in this class, and it turned out really cool, but it is no longer available.

I meant using maligned photos in an artistic way like hockney, the perfect ones are simply are display of anal retentive prowess...


10 years ago

Just in case you didn't know - there is actually a really nice cyanotype instructable - complete with ideas for how to cyanotype a T-shirt (and there's still a few days left for the T-shirt hacks contest!)

Hey =]

  • Don't go with a photogram...that's the first thing we ever did in photo 1.
  • I've been wanting to get a holga, they might be worth a try
  • Pinhole cameras can be a LOT of fun. If you do decide to use one, they look really cool if you make a positive of one (expose emulsion to emulsion, for something like 150% the time that you exposed the pin hole for) - I'll check if I've got an example somewhere around here to scan.
  • Cyanotypes take a long time, and rarely turn out well.
  • Polaroid transfers look pretty good, but like you said, gets expensive.

Are you allowed to use a 35mm negative to do something else with it? (That's what you do with cyanotype, no?) If so, ask if he's got sheet film to make an ortholith.

You could also make a collage:
  • Cut out different parts of prints with an exacto knife.
  • Go around the edges with a black marker (adds depth)
  • Use mat board and foam core to make it 3D
  • Use rubber cement to combine it all

Hand coloring? (With prismacolors)
I actually meant for you to read the comments, and specifically Goodhart's (cough cough wink wink nudge nudge hint hint).

I know he doesn't have sheet film...just last week a student brought in an 8x10 negative that her grandfather had taken and made an AWESOME contact print of it, and the teacher asked her to see if she could find any ruined 8x10 negatives to show his Photo 1 class because he didn't have anything larger then 120 film.

The cyanotype process here goes roughly as follows (going from what I've been told; I've never done a cyanotype myself):
  • The printing paper is prepared--a special emulsion is painted onto watercolor paper with a brush and allowed to dry.
  • The image is taken, with either a digital or film camera. If it's film, it is scanned into the computer. Either way, it is converted to grayscale and inverted (to be a negative) if necessary.
  • The photographer fiddles around with Photoshop to enhance contrast for better printing.
  • The image is printed out onto an 8x10 acetate transparency to make an 8x10 negative.
  • The transparency is placed on top of the paper in a proofer, and left out in the sun for a while (I don't know how long). The UV from the sun is needed to expose the paper.
  • The paper is brought inside, and developed using water. After drying, it is ready to go on display.
That's the extent of my cyanotype knowledge. The ones I've seen turned out really nice. Along these lines, but with more interesting subject matter, higher contrast, and much larger and clearer.

That's pretty much how it goes, except you use water colors to show the image. One thing you might suggest - What we do is simply use a xerox machine and crank the contrast way up to print it onto acetate. Pretty easy that way.

The ones you've seen turned out well, because that's what they show off. I just know a majority of people who do it at my school (it's a required assignment) don't get any image to show up. Do you know whether you have to make the emulsion and such? That could be the problem, we have to mix our own emulsion from the crystals.

I'll check your comments.

hm..I don't know much about kirlian photography, but from the wikipedia page, if you were able to coat a pane of glass with the emulsion from the cyanotyping, you might be able to use that for the film. If that's successful, you could make a direct transfer onto normal paper as if doing a contact sheet or photogram.

Would it be safe to use that much electricity on top of paper? That's why I was thinking about the glass emulsion like originally done.

I have one: have you ever seen Kirlian photography ? No camera is used, just the film and a small electrical charge.

I think I'd seen these images before, but just assumed they were created in Photoshop. Do you know of any resources (i.e., websites) about how to do this oneself? Google seems to be giving me only sites debunking the claims about "body auras" and other assorted bull. Have you ever tried it yourself?

If you subscribe to Make, the article (issue 9) should be available online.

I don't yet subscibe to Make; I'd like to, but it's hard to justify a magizine that costs almost as much as National Geographic, but has only four issues per year. However, a quick search brought up this page--is this what you meant? That looks fairly simple, but I'm not sure if I'm allowed to use digital. So far Kirlian photography looks the coolest of my options, but only if I can figure out a way to go directly to 8x10 B&W photo paper-I don't have an way to get 8x10 film sheets, nor a way to develop them, without paying a few hundred bucks.

Quick question that may justify the cost-does Make have ads in the magazine? Assorted pictures haven't shown any.

Oh, right someone pointed that out to me, and I didn't go look before my recommendation...my mistake, sorry.

About MAKE: I have the recent # 13, it has 208 pages inside, and the first two ads are for ShopBot and UAT (universaty of advanced technology). Further in a reference to BOTmag
This issue is themed on magic and making of some "tricks".

Under: Making Magic:
pg.60: Uncle Bill's Magic Tricks
70: The escaping blocks
75: conjurer's dilema
78: Levitating head
80: Power of Neg thinking
83: Ghost catcher
85: Telekinetic Pen
88: Balls of Fire
92: Sucker Bucket

Also included in this issue is the BOOM Stick (pvc air cannon)
toy music sequencer, Smart Structure - vibration damping system,
also some short articles on "fake sun photography" (puting a sun in the picture, so you have not glare),
home music control, tweaking songs for car speakers, rip/burn movies, the 3.25 cent lure,
PONOKO, a backyard submarine, etc.
The Fairyland of Science, Meet the Tool Zone, 2007 Robodock in Amsterdam, One Man's Junk is the
Same Man's Treasure, the fire drug i.e. black powder, history and uses; "tin can copper tan"; the Darkside Rocketeer, Jack Parsons; a Swahili bed; the incredible shrinking DVD; Candy Alert (hack you device included with your candy); Zippy, the recycled Marionette; in-car CAM corder; vacuum cleaner screw locator; graywater system; Giant veggies; Backyard Hens; the explosion machine; Amp meter clock; TV-B-Gone Hat; Project Orion: deep space; the ToolBox (kits), & etc.
Plus access to the online digital version and such extras as: http://blog.makezine.com/archive/2008/03/paint_roller_pov.html

Just as would-be Emerils pore over lushly illustrated cookbooks with recipes involving hard-to-find morels and complicated instructions for roux, Tom Swift wanna-bes are devouring MAKE.”
— Steven Levy, Newsweek

“...O'Reilly Media recently launched what has already become the bible of this new movement, a magazine called MAKE.”
— Daniel Roth, FORTUNE

“If you're the type who views the warnings not to pry open your computer as more a challenge than admonition, MAKE is for you.”
— Rolling Stone

“One of the most innovative magazines I've seen in a long time.”
— Steve Riggio, CEO Barnes & Noble

“The kind of magazine that would impress MacGyver”
— Marcus Chan, San Francisco Chronicle.

So basically, I should suck it up and subscribe. :-D I looked up Kirlian photography, and it seems that I can do it with photographic paper. The next big step is getting permission from the photography teacher to bring a fence charger into the darkroom.

Well, it took me a little convincing my wife that it was worth the money (and she is still not so sure), but it is definitely cheaper then my buying them at Borders one at a time. :-)

The next big step ... yeah, that might just be a deal killer that one :-)

Nope! I stayed after school to matte a couple of images, and he said that it sounded awesome. As long as I tell him ahead of time, come in after school, lock the darkroom to keep conductive fingertips out, etc., he said it would be great! Now I just need a voltage multiplier to step up my 2000V power supply. The All Electronics catalog says, "See our website for a schematic for a voltage multiplier that raises the voltage to 25kV," but there is no schematic. Do you have any recommendations that don't require hard-to-find parts?

Yeah-It tells me that I should start dumpster diving behind liquor stores for 6kV neon sign power supplies!

Make seems to be the magazine most likely to disappear before it reaches my mailbox. I subscribed last year, and I think about 2 of the 6 issues I should have gotten never showed up :-( (In particular, I'm pretty sure I never received the Halloween issue.) I wonder if there's an option to have it sent in a plain brown wrapper?

Hmm, when I subscribed last year, they said it only included 4 issues, but I could, for a nominal amount, get the special issues like the Halloween issue, etc.

From their online site:

New Subscription to MAKE
Paid subscriptions ordered today -
Check here if you already have this volume and wish to start your subscription with the next volume.
Select one of the offers below
Print Edition plus the Digital Edition - same 4 Volumes, same low price: US $34.95
Print Edition Only - 4 Volumes: US $34.95
Digital Edition Only - 4 Volumes US: $26.95

What issue ? (I haven't been getting the magazine even for a whole year yet) Did I miss something :-)

Thank you, I haven't had much of a chance lately to signin and poke around online. I really appreciate your finding it for me. I will have to take a look at that later.

can you dodge and burn? you could experiment with different materials of different transparencies and create and image. with the semi-opaque material you could create a grey tone(i think)

Hmm, that reminds me, certain types of paper (some construction paper actually) will retain the shadow of an image placed between it and the sun, and if there is a light dampening of lemon juice, the process of bleaching shadows speeds up some.

That's a highly technical process known in layman's terms as "cheap dye."

Hmm, lemon juice works as a bleach in the sunlight, but I know what you mean :-)

lol im working on a 2 step vignette thing. i traced a vignette on construction paper and cut out stripes coming from the portrait hole and when i lay that over a peice of paper with regular light it will make black stripes coming from a blank portrait hole thing. then im gonna get a regular vignette and put my film in and do the vignette. it should end with a oval of the picture with stripes coming from it. sorta like the rising sun sorta thing.

I wonder if you could create a pinhole camera that would directly expose onto photographic paper, instead of film. You might have exposure times measured in hours or days. Certainly no good for portrait work. Great for landscapes. They make positive paper, for making prints from slides, don't they? My recollections from photography class are dim. Its been decades

It's a pretty typical way of doing it. Use single-weight paper, develop as a negative. Then contact print (emulsion-to-emulsion) for the positive. There's usually a fiber texture to the print, since the negative substrate is paper.... I had a photo teacher in college who made LARGE negative from photo paper for gum and other processes. He'd rub mineral oil into the paper to make it more translucent. If I recall (this is out of the recesses), photo papers have an effective ISO in the 5 to 10 range.


10 years ago

There was a technique where you'd cut open some freshly exposed/developed modern-style polaroid (sx70-style) film and transfer the emulsion (which at that point is in a sort of rubbery state) to assorted non-flat objects. It looked like it might be fun (8x10 total might be tough unless you do multiple polaroids. (Hmm.)) Likewise, there's a "liquid emulsion" you can get and apply to various objects, after which they can be exposed and printed like photographic paper. I used to experiment with gum/dichromate; I don't recall whether I ever got it to work, and I expect the chemicals involved are frowned upon these days. Um. You could start with a sheet of photographic paper (fully exposed), and "paint" on it with developer(s)/fixer/toner, etc...

I used to experiment with gum/dichromate; I don't recall whether I ever got it to work, and I expect the chemicals involved are frowned upon these days.

I've written this one up as an instructable, but need to make a new image to illustrate the steps. It's the process, after all, not the results that count here.

AFAIK, the worst chemicals where the hardeners--formaldehyde, potassium chrome alum, etc., which are carcinogens. But there are other options...

The dichromate itself is a "known carcinogen": hept/hexavalent chromium is supposedly pretty nasty (my cynical self says that's because chrome plating shops were not (historically speaking) very carefully run places...)

Sigh...one more thing I've been exposed to (no pun intended) that'll kill me someday...

Do a photogram with grass! Grow a small lawn (maybe buy a piece of turf?), then leave objects on it to block light to some of the grass and turn it yellow. Or you can do it on a full-size existing lawn, and record the image the traditional way.

Oh! Use a single leaf! Create a 2d image in foil, and fix it to a sheet of clear plastic. Clip that to a large leaf and leave it in the sun for a few days. Trim the leaf, boil it in alcohol to remove the chlorophyll, and then soak it in iodine. Where the leaf was exposed to light, it will have photosynthesised, and produced sugar. The sugar is converted to starch for storage. Iodine reacts with starch and turns blue/black - you should end up with the exposed areas turning dark blue/black and the covered areas pale green.

Way cool! We've tested using Lugol's Iodine for the presence of starch in Biology before, but that's a very unique way of taking advantage of that blue/black coloring that results.

Somewhat goes in the Anthotype direction I suggested, but without the mushing :)

I have to be able to tape it to the chalkboard...I'm in class at this moment, and I don't think that the board will support the weight. Although...If I kept it small, and used just enough soil...and cut the grass very short...

Grow the grass through a mesh (hessian?) tacked to a board.