Historical
Experimental
Alternative
Digital
Hybrid
Photographic
Processes
'What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are light and time.'

John Berger, Uses of Photography (1972)

The ‘Studio of Light’ is a research laboratory and studio dedicated to photography and its reproduction bringing together the contemporary and the antiquarian – digital, the analogue and the hybrid.

The studio is based at Loughborough University in the School of the Arts supported by the expertise of other disciplines including Chemistry, Engineering and Materials Science.

We are currently focused on reviewing ‘alternative’ photographic and reprographic processes that date back to the 19th-Century to bring them into a 21st-Century context for the benefit of contemporary photographers, artists, conservators and educators.

This web site will act as a repository for our research. We hope it will be of interest to the community. We make no claims to any superior expertise - we make no recommendations – we are learning as we explore. We are interested in sharing our ideas with likeminded professionals.

We are grateful to our sponsors

Portrait of Terry Kavanagh
Professor Terry Kavanagh

Principal Investigator
Chair of Design & Applied Art
School of the Arts

Portrait of Paul Kelly
Dr Paul Kelly

Co-Investgator
Reader in Organic Chemistry
Department of Chemistry

Portrait of Ben Dolman
Ben Dolman

University Teacher
Creative Digital Technologies
School of the Arts

Portrait of Alan Duncan
Alan Duncan

University Teacher
Photography
School of the Arts

The Studio of Light possesses a comprehensive range of resources both analogue and digital that support our research and services.

Studios: There are two photographic lighting studios offering both professional Profoto flash photography and continuous lighting. Both studios have a variety of backdrops, tripods, accessories and stands.

Imaging: The Studio offers a full range of digital cameras including the latest Hasselblad technology, including mirrorless. The studio also has a selection of 35mm and medium format cameras, Wista and Ebony 4x5 large format cameras, Toyo and Tachihara 8x10 large format cameras for film and Polaroid, and a purpose-built ultra large format studio camera with a 20x24 film back.

Lenses: A full range of focal lengths for all cameras as well specialist lenses such as Cooke Portrait and Triple Convertor lenses, Schneider for 4x5 and 8x10 and ultra large format Fine Art lenses.

Digital Scanning: The Studio has a Hasselblad Flextight X5 virtual drum scanner and Epson V850 flat-bed scanners that can scan 8x10 negatives. There are also high resolution digitisation facilities for the copying of art works.

Digital Computing: The Studio employs the latest Apple Computer technology supported by a variety of Image processing software and large colour calibrated monitors.

Calibration and Measurement: X-Rite spectrometry devices allow for the calibration of computer screens and density and colour measurements particularly of digital negatives and test prints. The Studio has a wide range of other measurement systems to ensure quality control including humidity and moisture content, pH measurements etc. The Department of Materials at the University supports the Studio with a range of microscopic devices for the analysis of printed images.

Digital Printing: The Studio regularly updates its digital printers to ensure the latest developments can be explored. Epson and HP large format printers are employed to produce high quality prints on a large range of papers. By optimising the technology, the Studio is able to produce digital negatives [up to 44”] of exceptional resolution and density. The studio also offers both proprietary archival pigments and Piezography Pro inks. Regular tests of new paper offers from all the paper producers are undertaken to establish their appropriateness.

Negatives and Papers: With such a large number of darkroom-produced images it has been necessary to develop specific negatives to maximise quality appropriate for each process as well as matching them to a wide variety of papers. These include traditional European and American machine-made papers and handmade papers from across the World and particularly from Japan, such as Gampi.

Chemistry: The Studio is supported by the Chemistry Department at the University to quality assure and provide safe practices for all the chemicals it uses in the studio and darkroom. Importantly the Department also provides support in the preparation of some of these chemicals against rigorous benchmarks for quality and consistency, and the effectiveness and precision of delivery systems including autoclavable pipettes. The Studio has recently developed a variety of highly effective coating methods for a broad range of papers.

The Darkroom: The Studio has a number of darkrooms including a purpose-built lab for printing large images from negative up to 48”x36”. A De Vere 10x8 enlarger and a 48”x 36” UV exposure unit allow the preparation of prints. The main darkroom is temperature and humidity controlled. There are 4 sink units to accommodate large prints with temperature and water-purification functions and a 24”x20” print washer.

Darkroom Photographic Processes: The Studio currently has the capability to process a large number of historic photographic processes for, B&W and Colour, exhibition quality, and prints

Print Finishing: A full range of finishing and framing facilities, including encapsulation, are available to produce exhibition quality presentations for museums and galleries.

Noble metals and their future contribution to photography

The inspiration for this research-funded project, generously supported by Anglo Platinum Marketing Ltd., was the evidence from the comparatively recent spike of interest from artists, students, authors, curators, conservators, as well as the general public, in 19th-Century photography and its processes.

One relevant event was the 2014 three day symposium and workshop: ‘Platinum and Palladium Photographs: Technical and Aesthetic History, Chemistry, Connoisseurship, and Conservation’, Washington, organised by the American Institute of Conservation. Many of the debates at this symposium produced more questions than answers with regard to the understanding of our photographic heritage, its chemistry, and conservation.

What is shared between artists and conservators is the acknowledgement of the need to access current science and technology not only to understand the experiments that photographers conducted in the 19th century but also how today’s technology, including the digital, can be used to create contemporary artifacts and reproduce the original innovations of the early pioneers.

As contemporary practitioners, our objectives are different from those of the conservation world. To some degree there are not the same constraints, both ethical and cultural, that are the expected values within the conservation community. However, as artists, we believe there is common ground that through dialogue and collaboration could produce tangible benefits in understanding for all.

Our research will operate alongside the comprehensive printmaking workshop facilities that were originally established at Loughborough from 1895. There are those who believe that such facilities are unsustainable and largely irrelevant to contemporary art practice and education. Today it might seem counter-intuitive to be making a significant investment exploring discarded or apparently redundant processes from the past when much of current technology seems to offer such cost-effective and timesaving solutions for the contemporary artist. The answer is, of course, that the intrinsic aesthetic qualities, so evident in early photography, are increasingly relevant to contemporary artists who seek alternative means of visual expression other than the digital.

The principal objective is to establish hybrid-printing technologies that can achieve widespread utilisation by formulating systemetised, quantified, optimised and commercially viable processes. This requires cross-disciplinary collaborations supported by scientific methods of investigation, alongside existing craft sensibilities.

Olympics and Culture: Tracings, Projections and Intersections

Joint Exhibition of Joshibi of Art and Design, and Loughborough University. July 2018 Tokyo
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Joshibi Exhibition, July 2018

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Joshibi Exhibition, July 2018

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National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine, Loughborough University

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Sport Technology Institute, Loughborough University

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National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine, Loughborough University

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2012 London Olympics Torch, Wetplate Photograph

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Great Britain Team Blazer from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Loughborough University Archive

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1948 London Olympics Torch, Wetplate Photograph, Loughborough University Archive

Studio of Light Portfolio

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Platinum and Palladium Print on Arches Platine Rag

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Platinum and Palladium Print on Hahnemuehle Platinum Rag

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Platinum and Palladium Print on Awagami Platinum Gampi Paper

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Platinum and Palladium Print on Hahnemuehle Platinum Rag

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