Once upon a time, the photographic techniques now known as “alt process” were the most modern options available to capture light and time as images. Today, the powerful little cameras toted everywhere in our pockets mean that alternative photographic processes are no longer employed much for simple documentation. But their unique characteristics—the piercing blue of a cyanotype, the moody contrast and physicality of tintypes and ambrotypes—are as powerful as ever for an artist communicating a vision.
Jill Enfield has spent her entire career exploring that vision behind a camera. As a fine art photographer, a teacher, a successful commercial photographer, and an author of two books on alt process photography, Jill has learned the ins and outs of making a photograph as well as anyone. Her work ranges from architectural street scenes that stand apart from time behind the paned grid of a window to painterly cyanotypes that seem to freeze sunlight into ice. One impressive collection, “New Americans,” documents new immigrants to the United States in a series of wet-plate collodion portraits. Jill employs this process strategically, both as a connection to the countless photographs of immigrants taken in the late 1800s and early 1900s and as a means to inspire today’s viewers to take a second look. She notes that, though the wet-plate process was as standard then as digital photography is now, the “nostalgic, Proustian pull” it exerts today lends her subjects an extra level of heft, romance, heroism.
This spring, we are honored to welcome Jill back to Penland for an eight-week deep dive into all things alternative process. Jill’s workshop, Photography Through the Ages, will run March 10 – May 3. Students will begin by exploring historic techniques like albumen prints and wet-plate negatives, and then they’ll layer and combine them to achieve their own unique photographs. Not to mention that all of this creative experimentation will take place in Penland’s brand new photo studio!
“The new Penland photo studio is an alt process photographer’s dream,” says coordinator Betsy Dewitt. It was designed over years based on needs and wants from our old studio and extensive feedback from some of Penland’s most dedicated photography instructors. “With spacious darkrooms, new exposure units, plenty of table and sink space, and a myriad of tools at your disposal, the studio allows plenty of room for creativity and exploration. And, with the ability to convert the entire studio into an alt process ‘dim room,’ students can practice multiple processes at one time,” Betsy explains. “I’m excited to see Jill’s class take full advantage of the space, learning the greatest hits of alternative process photography and combining them to make pieces that are truly one of a kind.” Jill’s students will also explore ways to use digital photographic methods in combination with the historic processes, and these explorations will be well supported by the studio’s array of computers, scanners, and printers.
If you’ve been wanting to expand your photographic vocabulary or learn new ways to tell stories through images, we hope you’ll join us for Jill’s workshop this spring. There are even a few work-study scholarships available to sweeten the deal!
Photography Through the Ages
Jill Enfield, March 10 – May 3, 2019
This concentration will explore the limitless possibilities of working with various photographic media invented during the last three centuries. By first learning each process and then combining them, students will invent their own way of creating work. We’ll have daily demonstrations, discussions of historic and contemporary works through slide shows and videos, and plenty of time for experimentation. We’ll cover tintypes, ambrotypes, wet-plate negatives, albumen, cyanotype, platinum/palladium, printing over inkjet, transfers, and other techniques. This workshop will be exciting for beginning to advanced photographers and artists who want to set aside time to experiment and make new art. All levels. Code S00P
Studio artist; teaching: Parsons (NYC), Rhode Island School of Design, SUNY New Paltz (NY), Anderson Ranch (CO); collections: Amon Carter Museum (TX), Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris), Crocker Art Museum (CA); author of Jill Enfield’s Guide to Photographic Alternative Processes (Routledge Press).