Something Special: Guest Post by Alan Withington

And his 3x3 homemade lumen camera


Alan Withington, Sonny Rosenberg

7/5/20232 min read

I love to see artwork that's new to me, especially when it involves lumen photography and homemade cameras, and is as eye catching and evocative as Alan Withington's work. I'll never be an Art critic and I don't aspire to be, but as soon as I saw Alan's work, I knew I was looking at something special. I suspect you'll think the same.

A little background: The other day I received a most interesting email from across the pond (the UK) wherein Alan described his process a bit and included some very interesting attachments. I'll excerpt some of his words and the photos below. If there are any problems with syntax or continuity, blame my nonexistent editing skills.

"I practice what I call 'fusion photography' and use either analogue only with a mix of lo fi cameras or digital using adapted lenses like projector and condenser lenses. I love the fact that you don't develop lumens, can use expired paper and just avoid all the waste associated with conventional analogue photography.

I want to find the 'sweet spot' between very lo fi and something achieved via a paper negative.

I tried different cameras putting in wetted paper with mixed results so made one myself with an old meniscus lens from an Ilford Envoy 6x9 camera, probably from the 1950's. It seemed to work better than the other cameras so I thought I'd try wetting with mildly alkaline water using about 1% washing soda crystals. This seemed to speed things up but also made it possible (I think) to overexpose the paper and make a negative that is too dense.

I have tried to reduce exposure times down to 35 minutes in reasonable light and found that strong sunlight is not essential. The papers used for the ones I attach is 20 year expired Jessops glossy paper but I have used some very old Kodabrome on some others.

The Giraffe photo was 35 mins in gentle sunlight and the golden hand which is a fibreglass hand ten feet high in local park was about 75 mins. Colours are in camera after inversion.

Probably stronger because I have had to raise contrast levels.

(the) camera used the front lens and viewfinder section from a Daci Royal to give me an accurate viewfinder. It is hinged so I can fold out of the way

(A note about the last image) I just wanted to share one other photo. This one captures time but not how I expected it to. The church clock has golden hands and instead of a blur from the 50 minute exposure in afternoon sunlight, the hands don't show at all. I have found with the whole lumen thing it is not a 'linear' process'. There is definitely a strong element of chance and chaos thrown in to keep it interesting, I would have got bored very soon if it was like a sausage machine. It seems to me that you can put the same ingredients in one end and get a changing result out the other most times."

-Alan Withington