Tell us a little bit about yourself! Hi, my name is Stuart Clook and I am a photography-based printmaker living in the Lyttleton harbour area over the Port Hills from Christchurch. My background is in chemical engineering although my day job today has me working in the quality and regulatory space for a science and medical device company. My passion is my photography and printmaking practice of the NZ landscape, fauna and flora where I use the alternative/ historical printing processes of the late 19th and early 20th century to make my prints. How did your love of photography come about? For the first several years after moving to NZ from the UK in the early 90’s, I loved to fish and tramp the South Island rivers and back county, particularly Canterbury and the West Coast. My tramping and fishing exploits were documented using disposable cameras as they would quite often get a soaking and abuse from clambering up and down the rivers chasing fish. Yearning for better photos I bought an entry-level Nikon SLR film camera and that’s where it all started. My tramping and fishing trips over time turned into photography trips and for the past 20 or so years has been my excuse for getting out and exploring the great outdoors. I have always enjoyed printing my photographs, from using ink jet printers to printing on acetate and transferring the image on to handmade papers, ceramics and glass. This then led to my discovery of the alternative photographic processes where I can be even more physically involved in the picture making. I get great satisfaction and really enjoy the crafting and hands on making of my prints. My photography and printmaking is a journey of experimentation and problem-solving that come together to create those ah ha moments that I love when everything comes right. What are some of the different shooting techniques and processes you experiment with? Using film cameras can be frustrating at times with limited dynamic range and slow (film) speed but I find these constraints really make me consider what and why I am photographing and how I am going to print when I get home. This is all part of the mental gymnastics I go through in my head and where I often lose all track of time and place. My printmaking involves developing and digitising my film negatives and then printing enlarged digital negatives on acetate using an inkjet printer that I have modified to use piezography inks. The piezo inks help me get a high quality negative that I can then use for printing. The print processes I use include platinum palladium, kallitype, cyanotype, gum bichromate, carbon transfer and silver gelatin …oh and combinations of these, particularly gum bichromate over platinum is a favourite of mine. I am also very lucky to have been donated an Omega 10inch enlarger a few years ago. I use this to make silver gelatin prints with my film and digital negatives and am learning to use different toning methods including the Mordançage process. Why do you mainly use alternative photographic processes? I really enjoy the crafting and hands-on engagement with these printing processes. Mixing light sensitive emulsions, preparing and coating papers, exposing using an old sun tanning bed that I found on Trade Me or outdoors in the sun on a good day. To nurture the print through the development of washing trays. Time just seems to disappear, from a couple of hours for a straight platinum or cyanotype print when it all goes well to several weeks for gum bichromate prints where the print can be made up of a dozen or so individual layers in order to create a full colour image. When I peer through the inky black water during the final development of a carbon transfer print it still takes my breath away when I see the image slowly emerge as the hot water melts and washes off the unhardened gelatine and pigment tissue. These processes also allow me to use all sorts of papers and different substrates where the finished print is more than just the image itself. It’s the synergy between the image and the process used that help make the prints not only unique but also quite extraordinary. For example, printing on translucent vellum (cotton) creates a 3D tactile dimension to surface of the print and when combined with gold or silver leaf gilding on the reverse side that is then visible through the highlight tones can really make the print sing as it interacts with the light when viewing it. I am fascinated by the way a carbon print creates a bas relief to the print surface when using a glossy paper or by selecting a matt paper I can choose to exaggerate the differential surface sheen from the interplay of light between the highlights and shadows to lift the print to whole different level and experience for the viewer. I love the gentle tonality and velvety nature of a platinum palladium print, the juicy shadows in a gum print, these are the endless possibilities that the alternative processes can offer. How do you find the motivation to continue to go out and pursue your creative endeavours? Finding the right process or technique that works with a particular image or subject is a never-ending journey for me. I sometimes know when I am out with the camera standing in front of the scene exactly how I am going to print. It doesn’t always work out of course and that leads me to explore another process or combinations of processes. Sometimes it works but more often it doesn’t, and it’s probably the failures now that I think about it, that keeps going back to try and try again. … mmh, does that make me an artist or scientist? Where do you see yourself in 5 – 10 years time with your photography and video work? Gosh, doing the same I guess. I would like to think I have much improved my technique and my hits are outnumbering my misses. There are several lifetimes of processes and techniques to explore. The only thing I know I will be short of is time itself. What do you document and why are you attracted to these scenes? The landscape that we work, play and live in. From the intimate bush scenes to the open wide vistas typical of the South Islands mountains and braided rivers. Like all of most of us today I am conscious of the damage we are doing to our natural environment and its only through the passage of time that some will only see this for a fact. In my photography and printmaking I want to celebrate what we have and to hopefully nudge those who don’t see it into making changes in their lives to help preserve this precious land. What are your current camera setup and favourite film? I have several and they all have their unique way in helping me see the world. For the majority of my photography I enjoy using my 4×5 Chamonix camera and Delta 100. Throwing the dark cloth over my head transports me to a different world and really helps me focus on the composition and framing of the scene. I also have a medium format Fuji GF670 which is a delight to use and allows me to shoot 6×6 which is a favourite format of mine. And to mix it up, particularly if the weather is really bad or windy I have a couple of pinhole cameras, zero69, lensless45 and a Holga 120N to take out.I mainly use Ilford’s black and white films Delta100, HP4/5, some Pan F and have been using some Portra400 for some colour work of late. Are there artists you look up to or admire? From the fuzzy wuzzy pictorialists of the 19th century, Edward Steichen, Robert Demachy etc through to the straight photographers of the f64 group, Adams, Strand and Weston, to the contemporary artists of today such as Susan Bernstein, Peter Liepke and Diana Bloomfield. The tonalist style of painting is also a big influence on my work and why I like to use the gum bichromate process in a lot of my printing. What advice would you give to your younger self given your experience in life so far? That’s a hard one. I like to think I have no regrets; life’s choices are what has made me today. If anything, it would be to tell myself to not find reasons of why I can’t or should not do something but to focus on why I should. Do you have any projects coming up in mind or something you are working on, and where can we view more and keep up to date with your photography? I had the opportunity to do a workshop with Andrew Sanderson in the UK earlier in the year working with paper negatives and hand colouring prints. This is something I have tried before with little success but now thanks to Andrew I have a good foundation to build on. The process fits really well with my pictorialst bent and I have some projects in mind to see if I can make full use of the aesthetics it can give to the image and finished print. I am keen to grow the understanding and use of these alternative processes in New Zealand and am happy to connect and help where I can if anyone is interested. You can see more of my work on my website, www.stuartclook.com and you can follow me on Instagram, @stuart.clook.