The Alternative Photograph

Juror’s Statement 2014-15

Christopher James


Damn that was fun! … The task of isolating and selecting an exhibition of 50 strong images, out of nearly 1500 entries, was not difficult at all. What was complicated however was dealing with the problem of having to reject the nearly 1000 images that equally deserved to be included after the first editing passes. It took the better part of a week to get down to 75-80 images and then I finally gave up and asked Hamidah to let me put an end to the impossible and include all that were left… I simply couldn’t reject another great piece of work. Hamidah, who was at this point in the process showing great patience with me (thank you) showed mercy and told me that with that many images, the gallery would be bursting at the seams. What that meant is that there will simply be a bigger party for you all to celebrate your art!

From the beginning, I was making notes in the margins of my paperwork and here are a few of my thoughts that I want to relate. When the medium was in its infancy, and for a long time into its adolescence, images were judged by how well they technically represented representation and not by the conceptual, contextual, or inspirational risks taken by the artist… in essence successful photographic work was assessed by its ability to do what a photograph was supposed to do… accurately representing the subject in front of the lens.

From its inception, photography has never been a single, identifiable, technology or process. Throughout its evolution, the medium has been a slowly moving glacier of change, adaptation, and obsolescence followed closely by another metaphorical glacier influenced by the heat of science, industry, technology, aesthetics, and cultural. I think of these separate entities as I do the boulders I find in the woods near my studio… evidence of the glacier’s melting. Each of these transformations, the great majority of them overlapping, has ushered in an ever-greater democratization of photographic image making and resulting public adoption and adaptation. Each of these cycles have had the same family name regardless of how odd the offspring appeared… and they have always shared the genus, in a philosophical sense, a class of things that share common characteristics, and DNA of photography… that of making marks with light.

Alternative process image making is not about the technique employed, the camera, or the use of digital or film capture. Nor is it about the “artifact” or accident within the image that represents a contemporary artistic gesture that miraculously makes an image artistic and expressive. Alternative process image making has its heartbeat strongly allied to a tradition of making images by hand, using light and chemistry. It is driven by a curiosity to see where a process will lead the artist and her imagination and that living philosophy is the soul of this modest collection and exhibition. It is, in my mind, a representation of the new photography.


Christopher James

August 2014