In theory alternative photography is “low tech,” although one thing I like about it is the fluidity between high and low.
I might shoot on film with a plastic camera, then scan the negative so I can create an enlarged digital negative, then print in gum over cyanotype. Whatever works.
The internet has an important role in the alternative world. One great example is this website (thanks, Malin!). There are also YouTube tutorials (some better, some worse), artist websites, and the ease of finding and purchasing our unusual materials. Perhaps most helpful to me is the way the internet brings the far-flung community of alternative artists together. My first experience with this was when I joined fotolog in 2003. At the time it only had about 10,000 members, mostly in the US. I began posting from my “Squaremeals” series (pinhole images of my restaurant meals) and it wasn’t long before I began hearing from other pinhole artists, and discovering pinhole work by others. As fotolog grew I found that I was regularly sharing work with artists in New York and Hong Kong and Brazil and England. That would have been inconceivable a few years earlier.
Soon fotolog evolved into something else (it is now more about teen socializing than photo sharing). While I still post there regularly (over 1000 of my pinhole meals can be seen at www.fotolog.com/squaremeals) I found that many of my fotolog friends had migrated to flickr, so I post there as well (www.flickr/com/photos/squaremeals). What a wealth of alternative work is there! I just searched flickr for “gum print” and got over 2000 hits – a wide range of beautiful stuff. Similar results for “polaroid lift” or “platinum print” or “pinhole print” (“pinhole” alone yields an astounding 175,000 hits, but includes lots of pictures of pinhole cameras). I have been introduced to artists from around the world, most of whom would have been completely under the radar for me before the internet. One could easily spend hour upon hour drifting between images, following leads through interesting comments or the chosen favorites of a talented photographer. Inspiration galore.
The virtual world of the internet can also lead to “real” connections, as I discovered through my involvement with the f295 forum, which started online but has now had several alternative conferences and symposia. I’ve attended f295 meetings in Pittsburgh and New York where I was able to meet online contacts, see and discuss actual prints, and take workshops.
Alternative photographers may be thin on the ground, but it’s much less lonely when you can have colleagues, critics, mentors and students located anywhere and everywhere.