Interview with Simone Simoncini.

<< I hate images that remain as the camera saw them.
Shooting a subject without modifying anything is like have wasted time.
(Mario Giacomelli, trad.) >>

Why do you print using antiques techniques?

Alternative processes are a cryptic term to identify ancient ways of image forming, dating back to the 19th century, when photography became the first way of producing an image without having to paint it. So we talk about technologies far less precise and complex than modern printing techniques. This is not recognizable by the end user because the whole complexity is hidden in some kind of machine (for example : a minilab, or just a photo quality inkjet printer).

To the end user (including photographers) it is hundreds times easier to get a perfect result now than it used to be in the past. And hundreds of times more cost effective. And last but not least, with little effort and little difference in price one can print an image in any size.

This is a point we seldom notice nowadays. A century ago the making of large images was still confined to painting. Only the availability of silver based process gave photographers the opportunity to produce large prints by taking advantage of the speed of silver salts which in turn made enlarging an image a viable way to make a print.

Until then, the size of the print was limited to the original size of the picture, though cameras were often fairly large in format.

As strange as it may seem, the digital era gave a new life to those ancient techniques because modern equipment allows to make a negative not as part of the shooting session but as a part of post-production. One can decide, plan and implement a negative specifically crafted for a certain need.

This simple fact multiplied the opportunities for a huge number of photographers and artists around the world to take back image crafting into their own workflow and add their personal touch to the final result. In other words it added ways to do what Giacomelli said.

Why should anyone want to take one of these routes to “paint” a photograph?

I guess everyone has his/her own. To me it can be expressed in three  words: connection, pleasure, achievement.

Connection between the shot and the final result. When I take a picture, I already have a taste of how to make the final image, colors to use, technique, parts to enhance, parts to erase. Just a glimpse.

Pleasure in making the image. Making the image is NOT taking the picture. It’s a journey. You start with an idea, but the idea evolves as you go down the process. And you have to step back. Reconsider. Resist the temptation to throw it away. Work it again.  Add things. Layers. Physically work on the image. Until you get it right. It’s a challenge. Everytime.

Achievement because the thing you’ve done, no matter if you put in a drawer, sell it, give it as a gift, hang on your studio’s wall or whatever use you may think of, It’s been crafted by you. And that’s a great feeling.

There are many different ways to see an image, just like a painter can use different brushes, colors, mix them, paint on a wall or canvas or make miniatures. Gumoil is one of them and one of the latest in order of appearance invented by Mr Karl Koenig back in1986.

How do gum and oil come together to paint the final image?

The process shown in this video is just one of the many variations the technique can be approached with, maybe the closest to a printing process  we commonly think of cause selective removal of paint is down to a minimum.

After the oil is applied, you can choose to dry wipe then wet wipe, or just wet wipe, or just dry wipe. then you can choose to bleach the image to further expose previously covered areas, or give it another go of oil paint without bleaching. changing color or diluting it, or with the same color as previous application. All of these have an effect on the final outcome. In any case, the resulting image has nonetheless a “painterly” quality made up of deep shadows and vibrant contrasts.

Although on paper this technique is one of the simplest, the amount of manual intervention being so relevant shifts the technique from the print realm into a rather uncertain territory where photography and painting blend into one another, making the process really moody even in experts’ hands. So even if you are experienced, the chance of a print to go to the bin is way higher than with other techniques.

I do love gumoil because of that. Images have a distinguish look. They are strong. Think of gumoil as the opposite of palladium. Where palladium is made of delicacy and smooth tones, gumoil is fierce and “punching” through.

So, there is no point in seeking smoothness here, but hey, to each his own. Of course, detailed images, rich with micro contrast are best suited.

The result, though uncertain, is often gorgeous. (At least to mama’s eyes).