perthshire open studios – yr 11

Perthshire Open Studios is now in it’s 11th year, who would have thought that the group of us artists who first met way back in 2006 to plan an open studios event would have created such a successful annual event.

For 2018 we at wildgrass studio have decided on an alternative approach for what has become something of an annual pilgrimage.

Gill is taking a year out to concentrate on her new floral work which is truly wonderful and creations that I am certain will benefit from not being rushed to exhibit this year.

I am continuing to develop my wet plate and alternative process work so this years theme will be free demonstrations in the wet plate collodion process and various alternative printing processes mainly cyanotype and van dyke brown. These are all truly wonderful organic techniques with at times surprising results, a welcome alternative to modern day photographic methods. Many of my latest works will be on sale alongside some of my earlier analogue and digital prints.

Also after the success of our Silver Alchemy event back in March I will be offering discounted wet plate portrait sessions so this is your chance to experience having your portrait taken the victorian way. Details and Prices

Demonstrations can be given on demand but to avoid disappointment or to arrange a personal portrait session please get in touch in advance. We look forward to seeing you in our beautiful and rather remote corner of Perthshire, the kettle is always on standby and there may be some of Gill’s excellent cakes – all gluten free of course.

summer has arrived so time for some changes ….

living rurally in the Highlands certainly has a romantic appeal, hiding away in the land of all those celtic legends, fascinating wildlife on the doorstep – literally at times! and never sure what the weather will be doing with wind sun and rain (and even snow!) all in one day.

on the flip side we have the challenges of the extreme conditions and the ever long list of grounds and property maintenance work so at times a nice little tidy dwelling in suburbia can seem rather attractive. In the winter months my studio workshop is just too cold and damp to use for photography without some serious heating up but when the weather breaks and we get beautiful spring and summer days and the ground stays dry all the dark harsh winter months become a distant memory the worshop is such a great place to work, right out there in all that nature.

this year for reasons shared later i have decided to locate all my analogue photography work out into the garden studio workshop for the summer and get the house back to being a home rather than a chaotic collection of workrooms. Lots of junk and old materials thrown out, shelves sorted and now everything in one place, well nearly, just needed a decent sink and running water for analogue processing.

then bingo, saw on Facebook an old butlers sink going cheep, looked a real mess but it’s only for filling jugs and washing trays. 4 hours later was handing over some cash after heaving the brute of the sink into the back of the Jeep ignoring the fact that there was no way I could get it out on my own but thinking to myself that’s a problem for later (thanks to fellow photographer friend Tim for his help here)

spin forward to today and it’s in  I built a base, heaved it into place – more help this time from Mike, managed to fix the nearby water feed that’s never worked since we moved here 19 yrs ago and fitted a tap to the wall and voila… a working sink. currently using a huge bucket underneath for drainage but will sort that one day, can’t be seen to rush things.

now at last i can setup, capture and process my analogue photography all in one place, no dashing into the house for water or chemicals, everything washed and drying under the workshop canopy ready for the next session.

and to celebrate and test capture for Vandyke and Palladium printing captured on 12″ x 9 1/2″ Ilford Multigrade paper as a negative in my 12×10 camera. Stills seems rather weird producing a negative on paper but since i was the destination of others clear outs with boxes of old paper seems the logical thing to do. Time will tell how much of the old stock thats been stored under far from ideal conditions in lofts and barns will be usable but my initial test seems to suggest that all is good, at least with this box 🙂 looks like i had a bit of light leaking into the plate holder but there was a lot of faffing about getting the paper in correctly so for a first attempt am encouraged with the possibilities, and saving in material costs for testing.

next – well time to see how the prints come out. will be starting with vandyke and maybe cyanotype before trying a palladium print .. watch this space !!

1 venue, 3 photographers, and 8 days with countless images !

Silver Alchemy’s ‘Portrait of an Artist’ – An event Review.

Jo Cound, Jamie Grant and myself (Dave Hunt) teamed up to celebrate all things analogue photography and it has to be said that our Platfiom 18  event rather exceeded expectation.

The brief to ourselves was to simply capture a handful of Perthshire based artists using our preferred analogue photography format and present each one in our individual style of photographic process whilst sharing the techniques used.

Jo using her vintage Large Format MPP film Camera captured 2 main images of each artist, one showing the person and the second a shot to represent their working practice. Also using her Pinhole box camera she illustrated their studio space with a wide angle long exposure.

Jamie chose his Hasselblad Medium Format to capture each artists character with a single emotive image presented as a large framed print.

And I chose my trusty Victorian plate camera to portray each artists with a pair of whole plate sized Wet Plate Collodion images on glass and as a Tintype.

Preparations for the exhibition went extremely well, organisers Culture Perth and Kinross gifted us the rather fine Civic Hall in Perth city centre which was a somewhat larger venue than expected but gave us space to host demonstrations with a working darkroom plus an area for presenting groups talks.

What amazed us all was the level of interest and engagement from both the younger and the more seasoned visitor with several returning for the demonstrations and our end of event talk. Many folk found stepping into the darkroom either an alien but intriguing experience or something of a trip down memory lane, we even had a few folk leave with renewed interest to revive their analogue capture and darkroom processing skills which was one of the more rewarding experiences of the whole event.

Assistance from the members of Culture Perthshire Created and Perthshire Creates allowed us to turn an idea into a truly memorable event for all. We even had the events Poet in Residence Jim Mackintosh pen some words after our opening speech, he certainly captured the spirit of the collective with his poem ‘Slow Down’, this rather said it all.

On reflection we could not have done any more to celebrate analogue photography in our 8 days and we have come out of the experience with a real boost of enthusiasm to arrange more events in the near future.

So, a challenge.

If you have an old film camera hiding away in the attic then dust it down, load up a roll of film and share in the feeling of taking photography back to its basics. It reminds us that it’s about creating a life long physical memory of our subject that has been created with a deeper level of thought, something that is in danger of becoming lost in today’s virtual existence.

Read the Silver Alchemy Manifesto.

Dave Hunt - Tintype by David Gillanders, Glasgow

how did I get here ….

‘Talking Heads, 1981’.

Apart from having a darkroom setup as a teenager (that was a few years ago !) this whole analogue photography experience is for me something relatively new. I have on occasions over the years put a few rolls of film through my old 35mm cameras that were kept for sentimental reasons but the majority of my personal work and all of my commercial work has until recent years been digital.

A few years back I ventured into the world of Alternative printing to try to create fine art prints with a more unique feel than digital. I started by having a go at Gum Bichromate printing which was something of a disaster with seeing most of my images wash down the drain during the development process. Undeterred and excited to enter the world of alternative processes I did some research into Salt printing which seemed to be more involved and some of the chemicals were not cheep but I found much of the work produced to be quite inspiring with incredible detail and fine tonal range.

My early works were created with digitally printed negatives from digital images, this is extremely common as it opens up the whole alternative process to virtually any image at any size but there was however a nagging thought in the back of my mind that there must be a more authentic way to produce my negatives. A year of experimentation with various small to medium and later on large format film cameras dropped me head first back into analogue capture and developing. There were many a ‘how do I …??’ conversation with fellow photographer Jo Cound whilst getting into trouble stinking out the house, that took me back to my childhood when my parents bought me a chemistry set, bad move Dad !

All going well until I wanted to create prints larger than 4”x5”, how did folk like Fox Talbot in the 1800’s create prints with such clarity before film was available, and many were 12” wide or even larger. Visiting ‘Salt and Silver : Early Photography 1840-1860’ exhibition at Tate Britain in 2015 was a turning point in my work giving me the answer. The glass plate negative.

In no time I was consuming YouTube videos and other resources to self teach the wet plate collodion process, a world filled with enthusiastic amateurs alongside present day masters of this Victorian process, each spending hours running the gauntlet of handling dangerous chemicals in air polluted dark rooms active in the pursuit of their individual creativity. I am a believer that whilst there is a wealth of great content in books and online there comes a time when we need the experience of seeing a process done (properly) by an expert and for me it was a day with David Gillanders in his studio in Glasgow. That was it I was now totally hooked with a new direction in my photography. Cheers David !

So, here I am today, still with more enthusiasm than hours in the day and a string of ‘one day’ ideas of which many will never get excersised but thats the beauty of analogue and alternative photography. Everything we know today has been the results of years of alchemists, scientists, artists and photographers playing, experimenting, failing and perfecting whilst generally following the ‘what happens if I do this…’ discipline.

Yes, the science and procceses are important although for me there’s is really no right or wrong way to do things, just the way that I do it to get the results that I like and often what may seem to be a failure at the time is actually a cue to try something different, one day !!


Tatanunia Beach photography workshops by dave hunt

what is all this fine art photography about

I use the term ‘fine art’ to describe my work primarily to help explain my style of photography and to avoid being labelled as a photographer working in a specific subject.

Many years ago whilst showing my work in Glasgow alongside some of my landscape work I included a photo of a friends baby I had taken with a caption telling folk that I was available for portrait commissions. A few years later I received a phone call from a lady wanting some photos of her children, she had kept my card as in her mind I was a baby and kids photographer. Never gave myself that label.

I believe that there is no agreed definition for fine art photography but one description is that it’s work produced more for visual appeal than for record and that it’s created in the eye of a photographic artist.

What I love about fine art work is that it can cover just about any subject from a landscape, still life, portrait and art nude, one could say that it’s the meaning or concept of the image as much or more than the main featured subject. What does the image inspire in the viewer, does it leave them happy, joyfull, reflective, empowered, even saddened or depressed. What it should do more than anything is offer an insight to the creator of the image, this assumes of course that the artist is being true to themselves and not doing the ‘I can do that too..’ thing by copying others that appear to be successful. It’s all too easy to follow fashions, be a Lenon or a Bowie and become you.

I have been heard many times describing my hate for the ‘hmmm’ factor, if folk view my work and become lifted in some way that’s fantastic, or they find the image uncomfortable or struggle to live with then that’s ok by me, at least I have in some way provoked a reaction and maybe made them think. But if my work fails to attract attention or receives the ‘hmmm… ‘ comment then that’s a real shame, rather defuses the creative spirit.

So, my work doesn’t need to tell a deep and meaningful story or change people’s lives, make them want to sell their house to buy cameras or go viral on social media, but it does in some way need to connect with people. Often it can be no more than an expression of something within me or exhibiting a part of me that folk would not see in normal life but more often it’s just me sharing in the things in life that inspire me or just help me get through life.

The challenge for fine art photography is that the more personal the work whilst attracting more attention is also less likely to be commercially profitable. An emotive portrait will struggle to generate a print sale in favour of a glourious sunset or woodlands on a bright spring morning, but we have to ask ourselves what work do we want to produce… and why ?

There is no right or wrong answer, we just do what we do and hope that we find an audience that feeds our sole, or our bank account. Wouldn’t it be great if they did both.