Analog Photography In A Digital World

Addressing the growing interest in analog photography in a digital world in which many artists using photography are better served by older processes

The Penumbra Foundation is a New York based non-profit that coalesces photography and numerous educational and other programs designed to facilitate emerging artists working with older analog processes. The organization’s director and co-founder, Geoffrey Berliner, used his own interest in early analog photography to influence the Foundation which now occupies an 11,000 square foot building in midtown Manhattan – and with quite an impressive list of facilities and photographic hardware.

Within its walls are an alternative photography darkroom along with a teaching laboratory for black-and-white printing, a private black-and-white lab, a professional shooting studio and portrait studio, a library, and event spaces including a rooftop deck. Members and non-members can rent studio time by the day. Apart from the darkroom equipment itself, numerous cameras and lenses are there for use and include names that most people these days have probably never even heard of, such as Century and Speed Graphic large format cameras.

Perhaps the most interesting facility is The Penumbra Tintype Studio, described on the website as “a contemporary take on the 19th century wet plate collodion portrait studio,” where wet plate collodion tintype portraiture is on offer more than a century-and-a-half after it first appeared. And about an hour and a quarter is all you need to end up with a single plate up to 11×14 inches (with or without your pet) you can take home with you!

Abraham Lincoln original tintype image | Photography World News

This image of President Abraham Lincoln shows what is believed to be the only extant original tintype image of Lincoln, produced circa 1858.

Library of Congress (unknown author) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A contemporary photographer mentioned in the video who employs an alternative photographic process is Sally Mann. Many of her large format images were taken using the 19th century “wet plate” collodion process. Mann’s Deep South (2005) includes black-and-white landscapes shot using conventional large format film and also using wet plate collodion. She began shooting her landscapes in 1992 after she first came to public attention with controversial portraits of her children.

The panel for this event was organized and hosted by Adorama in New York and took place in August 2016. Entitled ‘Looking Back: Alternative Photography in the Digital Age’, the panel consisted of Penumbra Foundation co-founder Geoffrey Berliner along with photographer-artist and teacher Dan Estabrook, and photographer and manager at the Penumbra Tintype Portrait Studio, Jolene Lupo.

Thanks to The Photo Brigade for sharing the video on YouTube.