#3, Manipulated Print

Oftentimes, experimental photography focuses on a specific technique within the composition. Displaying the image is (more often than not) merely an afterthought. Yet, in my short time learning photography and the history of it, I’ve found the world of alternative process, which does focus on the display itself.

Alternative process is an umbrella term, much like “rock” is to a lot of music. It comprises various techniques like cyanotypes, tintypes, caffenol, even tea-toning and the bromoil process. There are many facets to alternative process, but one I’ve not seen mentioned much is the medium of manipulated prints.

As the name implies, the prints themselves are manipulated. Some use an ink-jet printer, where the paper is forced through at a faster or slower pace, the ink smudged, or prints ran over top of each other. The opportunities seem as endless as those for other artistic mediums.

Previously, in this series, I focused on mediums that aren’t considered artistic or very creative in general. Whereas, with manipulated prints, it’s clearly an art form, I just believe it’s unfairly buried among other parts of the alternative process umbrella.

Most printing is straightforward, even in the world of zines where risographs (a process using a printer with very limited colours) are popular. The print itself is a byproduct of the art, not so much the art itself.

In the case of manipulated printing, the printer, scanner, ink, and every other part, is treated like another colour in the palette, or instrument in the orchestra.

There are few examples that I’ve seen. The most prominent is that of ‘tanaka clan’ and ‘rafamonzo’ on tumblr (both seem to be the same artist). On that site, those blogs are linked to various other monochrome & abstract artists. It almost feels like a M.O. for that particular artist.

Another example, that is more focused around the expressionism and abstraction, is that of ‘philomena famulok’, a photographer and visual artist from Germany. I’m unsure the process used for many of their pieces, but there seem to be elements of manipulated print in their works.

Many characteristics of manipulated print fit well with the abstraction that these artists portray. The crinkled corners & defined creases, warping & distorted lines, heavy analog textures of the paper & ink. I’ll list what examples I can, to show these techniques in full, though I urge you to look into it yourself, and maybe even give it a go.

There is something beautiful in the DIY approach to art. From caffenol being used as a developer of film, to entire albums made in someones basement. I believe that true art has some element of DIY attached to it, which applies heavily to manipulated print.

It’s hard to define what a manipulated print exactly is. Since dodging & burning, as well as pushing & pulling prints can be examples of manipulation. Though, I would define the term ‘manipulated print’ as the intentional use of the print as a medium of conveying the idea behind the art.

I’ve believed for years that art is just an articulation of ideas, and if you articulate your art through a $5 ink-jet printer and a ream of recycled paper, then that’s just as much an art piece as a mountainous landscape on a canvas.

Whatever the medium is, there is artistic integrity in it. It is all art, as the name of this series implies.

Tanaka Clan


Philomena Famulok