Alternative Processes: Silver Gelatin Print with Martha Casanave

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For the next few days, we will feature a mini-series of posts on alternative processes in photography. Today, Martha Casanave joins us to talk about her Silver Gelatin Print posted above. If this interests you and you'd like to expand your creative pallette, the F295 Annual Symposium might be the spot for you to do so.

Martha Casanave Series “Coastal Pinholes”

- Silver Gelatin Print

- 4 x 5 Pinhole Camera

The Silver Gelatin Process was invented by Richard Leach Maddox in 1871 and was considerably improved upon by Charles Harper Bennett in 1878. The Gelatin Silver Print was the most popular print process throughout the twentieth century and is still used widely by artists today. 

Gelatin silver paper (black and white paper) has an emulsion of silver chlorides suspended in gelatin. To create a print, the paper is exposed to light (commonly with an enlarger through a negative), immersed in developer which reduces the silver to form the image, and fixed with sodium thiosulfate. 

The concept of a pinhole camera was used prior to the invention of photography for scientific purposes, however came to the photographic world with the advent of gelatin plates. 

A pinhole camera is a lensless camera with a single aperture; any light-proof box can easily be converted to a pinhole camera by poking a small hole in one side of the box. Light passes through the pinhole and projects the inverted image on the back wall of the box, where film or paper is exposed. 

Casanave creates her work by placing her pinhole camera directly in the sand. Referring to Coastal Pinholes she states, “The wide-angle, distorting view of most pinhole cameras is utilized best from low angles. Working this way also takes me back to my childhood, when I played with toys and lived closer to the ground, and further from reality. The near indefinite depth of field of pinhole cameras allows me to play with visual elements of near and far. The time dilations—long, long exposures—allow water to become cloud, person to become ghost”.

Martha Casanave and many other 21st century photographers will be discussing their work at the 2012 F295 Symposium: Continued Explorations of 21st Century Photography