Capturing Light – Interview: Melanie King

Melanie King, Director of the London Alternative Photography Collective and artist, is part of the current exhibition Capturing Light. She will be hosting this months SLAM Friday with us, helping Constanza Isaza Martinez introduce visitors to Photogravure Printing ,and Yaz Norris demontrating Photograms in the gallery. We asked Melanie a few questions about Friday’s event and the London Alternative Photography Collective.

Capturing Light showcases a range of analogue and historic photographic processes. These notoriously appear quite complex to those without any knowledge on the processes, how did you get into them?

My background is not in photography, so I was first introduced to analogue photographic processes on the last year of my bachelors in Fine Art. I had been inspired by galaxy formation and multiverse theory, which resembled bubbles. I began by blowing bubbles mixed with paint on to paper, and then a friend suggested that I could blow bubbles on to photosensitive material. As soon as I worked out how to expose the photo paper correctly to make the bubble photograms look like space – I was hooked! I’ve always been inspired by the magic of darkroom processes, you can’t beat the moment when you first see an image appear out of the developer!

Stilled Life by Melanie Kind - Capturing Light

Stilled Life, Photogravure, 2104 © Melanie King

You are organising an evening of events to coincide with South London Art Map. what do you have planned there?

For the South London Art Map event, myself and the other artists were keen to demonstrate some of the processes, so Constanza Isaza Martinez will be demonstrating how to print from a photogravure plate and Yaz Norriss will be demonstrating the photogram process. The ethos behind the London Alternative Photography Collective is to make analogue photography processes seem more accessible, so by showing people how to make things – it might help more people have confidence in trying things at home (with kits from Silverprint… haha)!

Capturing Light is also part of a wider range of events, any recommendations of things not to be missed?

Capturing Light was devised as part of the Moose on the Loose Biennale of Research organised by the Photography and the Archive Research Centre at London College of Communication. Also as part of Moose, I convened the Shadows symposium of contemporary artists and researchers working with analogue photography or printing processes which was fantastic! Moose on the Loose finishes today (21 May) but there are loads of things coming up with the London Alternative Photography Collective. Our next meeting is Tuesday 02 June and will include talks from Almudena Romero (wet plate collodion) and Andrew Chisholm (colour photograms).

You run the London Alternative Photography Collective, could you explain what happens there?

The London Alternative Photography Collective has consistently held two artist talks a month since July 2013. These talks are usually focused on contemporary artists using traditional photography processes in experimental ways though we have also heard from analogue film-makers, historians and philosophers.

Cyanotypes by Melanie King and Constanza Isaza Martinez - Capturing Light at The Silverprint Gallery

Cyanotypes by Melanie King and Constanza Isaza Martinez

The London Alternative Photography Collective began following my Masters in Art and Science at Central Saint Martins in July 2013.  Throughout my MA, I was keen to learn traditional photography techniques and taught myself how to make cyanotypes using a kit from Silverprint.
I fell in love with the cyanotype method, as my research focuses on our interconnectedness with the universe. I was amazed to learn that with the cyanotype process, you can expose photographic prints using sunlight, and then  develop the print using water, without having to use a darkroom.
After learning the cyanotype process, I was keen to learn more but I hit a brick wall. I contacted artists who were cagey and secretive about their methods, the photography technicians at university discouraged me from using anything other than silver gelatin papers and workshops were out of my price range.
When I graduated from Central Saint Martins, I was eager to talk about processes with other like minded artists, and had the idea to set up a small group meeting at The Double Negative Darkroom in Hackney. Double Negative agreed for me to use their space to hold meetings where artists could come to chat about alternative methods of photographic printing.

The idea behind these meetings was ultimately to make these processes more accessible to other artists, and to develop something of a skill swapping network.
The meetings initially began with a talk from artists to provide a focus the evening, but it soon became clear that these talks were really valuable for the visitors to learn about new processes.
After six months, the talks grew too big for the space at The Double Negative Darkroom and Ken Flaherty offered the London Alternative Photography Collective a monthly slot at Doomed Gallery.
The community has grown with each meeting, and this community has been strengthened by regular exhibitions using the gallery space.

How can people get involved with the collective?

The collective is a fluid term – you are part of the collective by attending the meetings! We also regularly post call outs for exhibitions, so that people from outside of London can get involved too.
In June 2015, myself, Constanza Isaza Martinez and Andes Pantoja are taking our world record cyanotype to Revela T Festival in Barcelona, and will be participating in a panel discussion with Dutch Alt Photo. I think this is great – because it shows a locally based group can have an impact around the planet !

What would your best advice be to somebody looking to get into alternative processes, who wants to learn more?

If you’re a bit unsure of a process, or want to ask advice about a technique, then I have created quite a good database of past speakers, who I’m sure would be happy to reply to emails about their processes. 
Otherwise, I would recommend following our Twitter or facebook as we often share details of workshops and demonstrations that are coming up.

We normally ask for your favourite film and camera combination to round up, but it seems more appropriate to ask for your favourite alternative photographic process?

I went to a daguerreotype workshop with Christopher Brenton West in 2013, and although it was pricey – I think it was definitely worth it to see how a daguerreotype is made with iodine crystals, and to produce my own daguerreotypes. I’m still looking to buy all the kit I need to start making my own – but the plates and fuming equipment is quite pricey! I think daguerreotypes are unique and beautiful, and I admire their heliographic qualities. Heliographic processes are the most exciting to me – I was very pleased to see the original physautotypes by Niepce at the recent “Drawn By Light” exhibition at the Science Museum.

SLAM Friday takes place in The Silverpint Gallery on 29 May 2015 18.00 – 20.00

For more information about the London Alternative Photography Collective:
Twitter @LondonAltPhoto
Facebook LondonAlternativePhotographyCollective