Alex Bond is a large format, film-based, landscape photographer in Perth Western Australia. His photographs are created while hiking with his large-format 4×5 field camera.
He uses sheet film for its slower pace, because it’s tactile, and for its inherent aesthetics. Although now considered an alternative photographic process, Alex continues his practice of traditional darkroom printmaking, using established archival techniques and procedures. He shares his knowledge and skills through workshops and tuition.
Alex Bond offers a unique collection of contemporary, hand-crafted, silver gelatin photographs, exploring the Western Australian landscape.
Photographer and Print Maker
While everyone else had a real job I spent more than 25 years hiking and camping in southwest Western Australia. With my trusty wooden field camera and a few sheets of film, you can find me out on the coast, in the bush, or exploring some peak.
I go for long walks. It gives me time to become immersed in my surroundings. In my backpack, I carry my field camera, film, tripod, and sometimes a tent and food.
The West has a unique and ancient landscape. Our quality of light is both as hard as it is voluminous. It provides me with a continual challenge to reproduce that quality within the limitations of a photograph.
My introduction to large format film landscape photography was in the era of film cameras and light-sensitive photographic paper. Film cameras such as my field camera are very simple and robust. I am frequently working outdoors in rain, dusty or salty conditions. My wooden 4×5 film camera does not require any batteries and is lighter than a digital SLR.
I develop my film in a tank and print my photographs in a traditional wet darkroom. By today’s standards, it is neither fast nor easy. But it is a process I maintain to this day. It remains alongside my digital workflow.
Printmaking by hand is the final and possibly most important act in this creative cycle. This level of involvement gives an unquestioning intention and authenticity to a photographer’s works.
In 1989 I founded Stormlight Publishing as my publishing imprint. Its purpose was to produce high-quality West Australian landscape images for publication and promotion. Stormlight Publishing produced postcards of national parks, greeting cards, note cards, calendars, posters, and books.
After more than a quarter of a century of publishing, I have returned to my first passion for film-based black and white landscape photography and hand-made darkroom prints.
My aim is to create a unique collection of handcrafted, silver gelatin prints of our landscape, as a future resource for print collectors, print-makers, and photographers.
The Power of Film in a Split Second
There is something remarkably powerful in an image created by light falling on an object before a lens and captured on film. It’s a light-sensitive photo-chemical process resulting in an image that is both physical, and viewable to the naked eye. There’s an element of inseparable truth, intrinsic to the photographic medium. A point fixed in time, a split-second of reality.
So, here’s the nub between film-based photography and digital photography. It is this very fascination with the truth that the digital photography medium cannot replicate. Digital does not require an object before a lens, nor is it a physical, image-forming photo-chemical process. Digital photography contains no single fixed point, its pixels permanently fluid to alteration. There is no inherent truth or reality frozen in a split-second. Digital photography is really computer imaging and has more in common with painting and drawing than film-based photography.
My early days were spent borrowing one of the 35mm SLR cameras from my high school’s Media Department over the weekend. When possible I would spend lunchtimes in the school’s darkroom trying to make small prints. I would return home with a lunchbox of small wet prints, unwashed, clumped together, and smelling of fixer. Basically a printing disaster, but never-the-less, informative.
Later, while at high school, I worked weekends in the darkroom of a Fremantle photography studio, proofing colour wedding and portrait photos. Fortunately, I had access to studio equipment for my own projects on weekends and nights. With self-directed assignments, I experimented with portraiture, ballet, and fashion photography. During these early days, Dolly Magazine published one of my images of an aspiring fashion model. But it was my interest in landscapes and the publication of landscape photography that really drew my attention.
My First Paycheck
My first paycheck for published images was back in 1984, for an article in The Australian Women’s Weekly. This was another self-directed assignment photographing caves of the Margaret River region. Then followed landscape photographs published in other magazines.
In 1989 I commenced photographing, publishing, and distributing what would become a series of highly successful postcards dedicated to the unique landscape of Western Australia’s national parks.
Cards, books, calendars and posters
The postcard series grew to include the Leeuwin Naturaliste Series, the Southern Forests Series, the South Coast Series, and the Stirling – Porongurup Range Series.
Stormlight Publishing also published and distributed greeting cards, gift cards, posters, calendars, and books, receiving both State and National Print Awards for excellence in print. Stormlight Publishing has also received international recognition. It was the Australian finalist for two categories in the Paris Gourmand Awards, for Pemberton Wine Region Western Australia.