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Talk: Contemporary Photography and Traditional Processes: Craft and Concept

Northern Centre of Photography, Sunderland, SR1 3SD

Join us for a critical conversation to explore the use of traditional processes in contemporary practice.

In recent years we have seen a resurgence of interest in 19th Century processes, and of the materiality of the resultant prints and their function as art objects and collector’s items.  The wet plate photograph is a one-off, a limited edition work and exists as a counterpoint to the throwaway, point and shoot nature of the digital photograph.

A number of questions arise for practising contemporary photographers when exploring this medium, including:
Can the delicate craft and skill needed to use this process be combined with concept and can the created works be said to be ‘critically-engaged’?  What is the relationship between traditional and digital process, particularly when our images are now shared through digital networks and social media?  Do photographs created in this way become artefacts and/or artworks? In the case of portraiture, does the relationship between photographer and sitter change?

We are delighted that four photographic artists will join us to present their practice and research in relation to traditional and alternative process. These are Sheila Masson, a photographer and researcher of British Tintypes and contemporary usage of the process and photographic artists Chris Madge, Neil Armstrong and Alexandra Hughes.

We will also be joined by a small cohort of photographers and artists who undertook the development opportunity offered by Great North Run Culture, NEPN and Tyne & Wear Archives and Museums to participate in a collodion photography workshop in the context of the Great North Greats exhibition.

Great North Greats, exhibited in various venues during 2015, explored some of the most important luminaries, inventors and innovators in the industrial and social history of the north east and celebrates the region as the birthplace of many great scientific developments and inventions.  Among them, Joseph Swan, a physicist and chemist, inventor of the incandescent lightbulb and an early pioneer of wet plate photography. Great North Greats was curated by and is a project of Great North Run Culture.