OLD SKOOL feels FRESH AGAIN...
I have known Josh Blumental for many years (his images even graced my husband's CAR for years as a MOBILE promotion for my husband's company). But Josh has done something I haven't seen many people do - STARE creativity in the face and battled it. He's feisty (as you will read below he isn't shy - and "F" bombs are dropped) and can go on rants ( I can say this cause I know him) - but the bottom line is he has passion and is doing something (not NEW) FRESH to the scene. I hope his approach inspires you to SHAKE things up...even if it's SCARY as hell. What he does is make ONE original PHOTOGRAPH/ART PEICE that cannot be duplicated (read on...) and makes money doing it...
"This whole 1/1 process has been like a musician going unplugged, acoustic, live. It's like having Eric Clapton, a vintage Martin D-45 guitar with no mic, no pick-up, no band, no amp, no recorder, live in your living room."
BE SURE TO SCROLL DOWN and SEE THE WORK (well KINDA...)
Why did you make this switch?
You know, sometimes your computer gets stuck, the "spinning beach ball from hell" appears, and you have to just shut it down and re-boot? I felt I had to do that.
Switch? I didn't really switch. I stopped, re-booted, added new software and hardware. I added what I call the Ag-X 1/1 and Wetplate 1/1 process to my everyday line.
Tell me about your process?
They are two paths with the same end. They utilize processes that create a path of provenance and a unique 1/1 (one-of-one) series images. In one, Ag-X 1/1, I shoot film, print optically on handmade photo paper and then burn the negatives in a Monty Python-esque ceremony. The Wetplate 1/1 process utilizes the wetplate collodion tintype process to create a unique, no intermediate process, original with no duplicates.
I'm not a process based photographer. I'm not one of the film-o-philes that can't handle the digital world. I love digital cameras and computers, as well as the complete control they give me. However, I recently realized I lost something in gaining that complete control. The fact I can reproduce every image devalues the image, or its intent. I believe the value of any one image is inversely proportional to the number of copies available, or potential copies available. They are like autographs. With digital, there's an infinite number of copies available. That is why photographs are not sold in traditional art galleries... They are just copies.
How has it impacted your creative process?
My tag line is "modern. quirky. innovative.," and I have always strived for my work to be unique, special, etc... However, over the last year, I realized there is no original in digital photography (.cr2 files are not originals), and when you can make 147+ million copies of a post-processed .jpg derivative, there is no such thing as unique. Digital photography is by definition a process for mass reproduction, not for one-of-a-kind art. It just can't do it.
I have been longing for a way to create truly unique art for a long time, and the only way I could find it was by going back and staring over. Basically saying in my best British Punk Rock accent I can muster with my middle finger extended (or index and middl, if you wish) "I'm doin' it my way, not your way. F*^K IT ALL... F*^K IT!!! " I started with the 1/1 end product and worked my way back to a process able to create it (I found two of them).
How do your clients feel about the experience?
So far, it's been phenomenal... Everyone that goes through one of my 1/1 sittings LOVES the concept and the ridiculously painstaking process involved (so far I've done about 50 sittings). They love the magic (I share all the magic as if it were performance art, because it really is.) They love seeing the chemicals being mixed by a mad scientist (...that's me). They love seeing the stinky collodion poured and sensitized. I think they even like huffing the ether fumes. They love hearing my 2 hour long shpiel extolling the 1/1 concept while their images magically appear out of the organic goop sitting in fixer. They love my ramblings raging against digital data ownership (or lack there of), the web, Facebook, copyrights and infringement, the cloud, etc... It's as much a one-on-one lecture on the most current state of mass-media and fancy art concepts like Ma, Wabi Sabi, provenance and Terroir, as it is a traditional portrait sitting.
Like I said, I'm not a process based photographer. I'll use any and all the tools available at my disposal to create what I want to create. I realized that I needed to do something completely differently than everyone else. I realized I needed to use a whole new tool kit to get what I wanted. In this case, it was an arsenal of steampunk-like antiques I find on eBay, a pile of stinky bottles and a VOC respirator.
Honestly, I don't know any other photographers out there creating one-of-a-kind art. There are other film photographers out there, as well as wetplate photographers, but as far as I know, I am the only one that refuses (out of principle) to digitize or duplicate his work (BTW. even John Coffer digitizes his work). The 1/1 series concept is sacred, like being vegetarian or keeping a kosher home. It's not up for negotiation. My 1/1 series images will not enter the digital stream. I challenge others out there to follow suit and say NO to the digital world. Own your images.
How do you balance commercial work and consumer work?
I have already been asked to do commercial work this way.... I flat out said NO. No way. No how. Never.
I see this as "art." Portraiture at its best, not a whored-out, plastic commercial photo process. I said I would be glad to shoot digitally, turn it B&W and add any Hipstafukinshwag they want to it later. (I coined that term on Urban Dictionary, BTW). I can add the faux organic clouds, splotches, scratches, to any image they want. I can ad fake Wabi Sabi to anything. With vintage these processes, there is an honesty that is lost in the digital world. When you see my 1/1 series mages, you know with 120% certainty that I didn't "mess" with them or "tweak" them in any way. They have a provenance that digital just doesn't. I made them. It's as simple as that. My fingerprints are all over them, and there's only one or each image. Each one is special and unique. By starting at the beginning, I created something that is 100% modern, quirky and innovative. This is not old skool at all.