“Magic” of old photography delighting new generations of artists
Art and science are combining as artists experiment with old photography techniques, some dating back 120 years.
James Cook University PhD student Ann Vardanega has found that although people typically think of photography in the context of the latest technology, there’s an increasing number of artists turning back the clock and experimenting with old processes.
“They’re going back beyond film and experimenting with chemical processing,” she said.
“What’s happening is a mix of science and art,” she said. “They’re experimenting with chemical processing, testing and trialling the mixes of chemicals required, which is similar to what people were doing 120 years ago.”
Some of the techniques they’re using include wet plates, cyanotypes, and daguerreotypes, which all pre-date film photography.
“It’s about the magic,” Ms Vardanega said. “There’s a mysteriousness to the process as you see nothing becoming something.
She has even seen this old technology used as a teaching tool.
“Some primary schools are teaching with cyanotypes as way of experimentation,” she said. “Testing is science-based learning, but the outcome is a creative art.”
Ms Vardanega said the use of old technology shows the history of art photography is not linear. The technology is, but the way people use it isn’t.
“It’s like cars,” she said. “People don’t use cars from the 1920s unless they’re dedicated vintage car enthusiasts. And like cars, some people really like old the old photography methods.”
It also goes against assumptions that technology is killing photography.
“People say photography is dead because of artificial intelligence and technology but that’s not true,” she said.
“Just because you’re young and into technology, doesn’t mean you won’t make use of old technology.”