Let's talk about art: Alternative photo processes

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This is a biweekly series about art and artists in the region. Pittsburgh Filmmakers/Pittsburgh Center for the Arts serves the community through arts education, exhibitions and artist resources.

As most smartphone users know, photographers these days can push a button to create a cool vintage look, maybe adding a blue (Cyanotype) or brown (Van Dyke) tint to their cell phone images.

Ironically, with the advent of Instagram filters, there's renewed interest in the historical and alternative processes used in old-school photography. One type of experimental image-capture that harkens back to the 19th century uses no lens. In “pinhole” photography, the camera exposes photo paper through a tiny hole instead.

Gum bichromate is another 19th century process. Using a variety of chemicals applied to a negative, it’s a multilayered printing process. The effect can be ethereal and often looks like a painting.

Modern alternative processes from the late 20th century include capturing images on a scanner or directly onto photographic paper in the darkroom. Called scanograms and photograms, they use no camera at all.

These are some of the topics covered in “The Photography Intensive at Pittsburgh Filmmakers,” which begins on Sept. 2. Students will learn the technology, history and craft that inspired that popular smartphone app in a course called “Photographic History, Theory, and Practice.” Over two semesters they'll gain an understanding of context through a hands-on practicum, as well as the study of photo history.

The new eight-month photography program – an alternative to traditional post-secondary education – covers all aspects of the business and art of photography to prepare students for a successful career in the field.

While students learn the ins and outs of commercial photography, they are very much encouraged to find their own personal style and creative voice, explains photography professor Karen Antonelli.

“Learning how to keep art in your work helps you stay fresh,” she says.

A public exhibition of The Intensive students' work will be held in spring 2015. For more information about The Intensives, go to: PFM.edu or call 412-681-5449.


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