Robert & Shiiko Alexander
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Many years of making portraits of artists, resulted in an exhibition in the Photography museum "Den Tempel" in Sittard.
Apart from this Henk Thijs also has had different assignments for theatre and ballet companies to make journalistic photography. Among others he worked for the Ballet van Vlaanderen, the ‘Nationale Toneel‘ in The Hague and the Stadttheater Aachen resulting in publications in newspapers and weekly magazines like the Volkskrant, NRC-Handelsblad, Vrij Nederland, the Gazet van Antwerpen, der Spiegel, Süddeutsche Zeitung and more.
After this period his preference moved to candid photography: trying to catch the beauty of the ordinary and coincidental contrasts, instead of creating a surrounding. Give meaning to the daily life of people by eliminating them of their environment. The great variety of subjects were a challenge to look for alternative print techniques. To come closer to the impression given by the image Henk Thijs chooses nearly forgotten techniques like (brom)oil, gum and cyanotypes. The possibility of using colour, in a very restricted way, enables him to achieve the impression he wants.
Due to the increasing role of automation , using digital techniques was unavoidable. First to create the necessary large negatives for the oil- and gumprinting, and after that the switch to so-called giclee prints: inkjet prints made by permanent pigment inks on 300 grs self-coated aquarel paper, an interesting extension to the 'alt-processes'. Exhibitions in Sittard(Nl), Luik(B), Lille(F), Beek(Nl), Apeldoorn(Nl), Heerlen (Nl), Herzogenrath (D) , Vaals(Nl) and october 2009 Durango (USA)
The (BROM)OIL Process was an early photographic process that was very popular with the Pictorialists during the first half of the twentieth century. The bromoil process was based on the oil print, whose origins go back to the mid-nineteenth century. A drawback of oil prints was that the chromated gelatin was not light sensitive enough to permit an enlarger to be used, so that negatives had to be the same dimensions as the positives. OIL prints are made on paper with a thick gelatin layer that has been sensitized with dichromate salts. Exposure using a negative for contact-print leads to hardening of the dichromated gelatin, in direct relation of the amount of light received. After exposure the print is washed in water to get rid of the chromates. The result is a faint image, it looks like a relief in the gelatine; this is called the matrix. After drying the print gets soaked in water. The non-hardened parts absorb relatively more water than the hardened parts, so after sponge-drying the print, while still moist, one can apply a stiff oil-based paint, mostly lithographic ink. The non-mixing character of oil and water results in a coloring of the exposed (means more or less hardened) parts of the print, creating a positive image. The ink application requires considerable skill, and as a result no two prints are alike. Bromoil prints are a direct variety of this process: One starts with a normally developed print on a silver bromide paper which is then chemically bleached and hardened. The gelatin which originally had the darkest tones, is hardened the most, the highlights remain absorbent to water. This print can then be inked like the oil print.
Gum bichromate is a 19th century photographic printing process based on the light sensitivity of dichromates. First step : making a working emulsion of three components: * gum arabic * ammonium or potassium dichromate * pigment or watercolor or gouaches or combinations (!) The emulsion is spread on a 300 grs aquarel paper and allowed to dry in the dark. A negative is put on top and exposed to a UV light source (I use UV BL fluorescent tubes; in the beginning only the sun was used). A sheet of heavy glass to ensure even, constant contact is employed. The light source will harden the dichromate in proportion to the densities of the negative. After exposure, the paper is placed in plain water baths and allowed to develop until the unhardened portions of the emulsion have dissipated. After one layer has dried the paper may be re-coated and exposed again. The tricolor gum print is based upon three specifique negatives, corresponding to former CMY-filters. Each layer is subsequently on top of each other handled as explained above. First the Yellow, then the Magenta and last the Cyan layer. The result is a more or less realistic color gum print.
Inspired by a recent head injury and the ethereal qualities of alternative photographic processes, “Memories, Dreams and Fears” is the current theme in my work. I explore ideas and perspectives of the theme when I find myself in an environment with camera in hand. I share my experiences through symbols and icons, with the hope that the image will trigger a personal response, perhaps a personal memory, in the viewer.
Low-fi image capture (i.e. Holga & pinhole) offers a dreamy quality, with unexpected anomalies caught on film, and lacks the ease of instant editing and recapture that digital offers. The Holga is a toy camera made of plastic, has inherent light leaks, a fixed lens, shutter and aperture (f11@100), and uses 120 film. These limitations can be modified or enhanced through flocking, taping, masking, using Vaseline on the lens edge or more easily and commonly, by dropping the camera down a flight of stairs. I currently work with four different Holgas, all named after famous women photographers: Anna Atkins, Diane Arbus, Lola Bravo and Pinky Bass.
Alternative and antique printing processes also give an “aged” appearance when compared to modern photographic technology. Cyanotype was the first non-silver print process, founded in 1842 by Sir John Hershel. Though very simple in process, it too can be modified to suit the photographer’s objective. Ziatype is a palladium and gold printing-out process that has been recalculated by Dick Sullivan from Pizzighelli’s 1880 original version. I choose these processes because of their look, and the chemicals used offer a safe working environment and safe disposal.
The cyanotype process was invented in 1842 by Sir John Herschel, an English scientist and astronomer. Herschel made many contributions, including coining the term “photography” and using “negative” and “positive” as photographic terms. It has been noted that Herschel shared his research with Henry Fox Talbot (calotype) and Louis Daguerre (Daguerreotype) in 1819, long before these two men ever developed and patented their own processes. Daguerre also learned many photographic processes by collaborating with Nicéphore Niépce and benefited greatly after Niépce’s death, using marketing and strategic patenting to promote his process and gain fortune and fame for advancements in photography.
Anna Atkins was the first woman to create a photograph using the cyanotype process. Her book of botanical cyanotype drawings, Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions, was the first photographic book published, and made the cyanotype process more prominent. Cyanotype was originally used by photographers as a means of proofing their work. Throughout the 20th century, it was popular with engineers as a way to reproduce mechanical drawings. Cyanotype developed into the modern blueprint, diazotype.
The Ziatype process was developed from Giuseppe Pizzighelli’s 1880 platinum printing out process by Dick Sullivan of Santa Fe. The Ziatype was named for the ancient New Mexico Anasazi (ancestors to today’s Pueblo) symbol for the sun. As a printing out system, the images develop as they are exposed, which allows them to be evaluated as they print. The colors vary from cool to warm tones of black and are controlled by chemical variations and humidity.
Both of these contact-printing processes utilize UV light for exposure.