Because alternative process photography is so hands-on, some may wonder what led Hilton to photography as opposed to another medium. For him, it is simply about his ability to work with his chosen medium according to his own methodology:
I think better with my hands than I do with my brain. Photography, and particularly Wet Collodion, is just one way I love to make things by physical manipulation. I love to play with a material and see what it does, and that’s reflected in the things I photograph. It’s a two-stage process. I gather materials and play with them until I like what I get. Then I photograph it.
Hilton’s winning image, CYCL, is a digital print created from a wet plate collodion negative, allowing for a much larger print. This fusion of new and old photography techniques has been a huge development in the photographic world. Hilton finds that much of the contemporary alternative process work is a hybrid of new and old: “The resurgence of it in the past fifteen years is a direct response to the cosmic shift in most photography from the chemical to the digital, so it makes sense that artists today would seek to combine them.” For Hilton, the addition of modern technology gives him the best of both worlds: the inaccuracy and unpredictability of wet chemistry as well as the control and flexibility of modern printing. It also allows him to easily produce prints larger than traditional 4”x 5” plates.
Juror's Choice: CYCL
Because his typical shoot involves a time consuming chemical process, Hilton tends to set up his camera before he completely finalizes his images. He focuses on creating the images themselves, looking at them through the camera until he settles upon a final group of constructed scenes. This can take a few weeks. When it’s time to shoot, he shoots the images he has constructed over several days, until his chemical mixture is exhausted. During these shoots, if he finds inspiration for another project, Hilton makes note of it for later. “I make sketches while I shoot, thinking of what I will make over the next round. […] I always get my best ideas as a flash of something while I am really intensely working on something else.” Always planning for the next shoot is the embodiment of how Hilton defines success: Keeping clear goals and working towards them. “If you do this honestly and diligently, then success is whatever happens as a result.”
Methods (Alternative) is on view through February 23, 2013.