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Today's Throw-away Photography

In 2016 we toke over 1 trillion photographs, just in this one year. That will be more digital photographs in one year than all of the other types of photographs put together - EVER. Don't get me wrong I have a great love of digital photography with its immediacy, ease of sharing and, more importantly, fabulous flexibility in its ability to be enhanced once captured.

However, photographs now are fleeting things that snatch at moments and are flicked quickly across to others to be equally quickly pushed aside. Many, like me, gain great pleasure from an exquisite photograph, beautifully composed and expertly executed - and having the time to look deep into it. I sense a growing desire in the world for those out-of-the-ordinary images to be captured permanently to be able to study them and cherish them.

a favourite of my gum bichromate portraits

My journey back into wet photography, after decades of pure digital photography, was driven by such a desire. The time taken and energy spent hand making an individual print - often taking days to complete - affords the privilege of deeply understanding a single individual image; faults and all. Then being able to celebrate it if it comes together - or learn for future attempts if it does not.

First Steps into Hand-made Wet Photographic Printing 

The wonderful, and much missed, randall webb

My real journey into wet photography began when I met a wonderful man who became a close personal friend, Randall Webb. Randall and I met at the Richmond and Twickenham Photographic Society, RTPS, and he talked a lot about the various 'alternative' photographic processes, all of which he knew well.

We spent several evenings discussing photography and what it could be. Randall helped me take my first steps into this new world. We did Van Dyke Brown prints and cyanotypes together and he lent me a small UV light-box when I experimented with platinum printing (where I picked up the rather pretentious, but memorable, name of 'Platinum Prince'. Apologies to all).

We went on to exhibit together - one occasion was on the 120th Anniversary of the RTPS around the time I was its President. Randall and I wanted to celebrate techniques that were around when the RTPS was formed and how they can be mixed with the current digital techniques. We called the exhibition "Faces Forward to the Past", primarily because I was into portraiture at that time and my part of the exhibition was entirely of faces printed using the gum bichromate technique. 

Since those days I have continued to work on a wider variety of printing techniques, but I keep coming back to my great love - the gum bichromate print. I've read many books and got advice from many experts including the late Terry King, John Brewer and Christina Z. Anderson. Currently my photographic work is focussing on a technique that prints on mid-tone paper and using a set dark layers for the shadows and another set of light layers for the highlights (the banner image at the top of this page is an example). This approach was something that the great Heinrich Kühn suggested was possible with the gum bichromate process at the turn of the century before last.