Photographer Reveals Why He Left Digital Behind to Study Alternative Processes

For all intents and purposes, photographer Nick Brandreth was already doing very well as a photographer when he decided to go apprentice at the George Eastman House.

He had already had his work featured in the likes of the Wall Street Journal, but something had been missing ever since he stated shooting digital … something he only really re-discovered when he dove into alternative processes.

Like many photographers, Brandreth’s career began with the realization that this was the only thing he ever wanted to do. But when he switched from film to digital along with most of the rest of the world, he began to feel less a part of his photography.


That’s when he began exploring alternative processes in his girlfriend’s parents’ basement by making platinum prints. He was immediately drawn into this “whole new world.” “It blew my mind,” says Brandreth. “I needed more.”

Which is probably why he found himself in one of Mark Osterman’s workshops (Osterman is George Eastman House’s process historian). And when Osterman mentioned off-hand that he was looking for an apprentice, Brandreth wasted no time — he packed up his stuff, left New York City, and moved to the George Eastman House.

In the video at the top, Brandreth tells this story himself. He explains how he came to love photography, how alternative process captured exactly what he was looking for, and what’s next for him. Check it out and get your dose of inspiration for the day.

If you’d like to see some of Brandreth’s work, be sure to visit his website by clicking here.

(via Reddit)

  • Richard

    Fantastic. He made a great choice and his work reflects it. Keep up the great work Nick.

  • Sarcasm

    I have gone back to building houses out of asbestos board and painting them with lead paint, It is so much more ‘real’ and nostalgic that way.

  • Shane

    like Philip replied I am dazzled that some people able to earn $8364 in 1 month on the computer. learn the facts here now


  • Crabby Umbo

    I’ve been a professional photographer full time (and my sole income) since 1974, and I’ve told people on many occasions, especially while doing seminars and lectures at local colleges, that if I had been ‘coming of age’ during digital, I probably would not have been interesting in choosing photography as a living, at all. What I loved about photography was it’s combination of chemical voodoo and beautiful little machines. I reveled in the experimentation with mixing various chemical compounds to tweak more out of developers, processing my own film, trying different film stocks, etc.

    Now digital photography is as soul-less as computers can make it. While computerization has made the process of getting ‘good’ photographs more attainable (and by ‘good’, I mean technically acceptable, not genius composition or anything), and the market is now flooded non-stop with everyones banal images, it doesn’t mean that new reality is better than what was going on before, it’s only an unstop-able onslaught.

    I could go on and on, but I’m glad that there are still vendors alive that sell conventional film, and the means to mix chemistry and process and print, it’s unfortunately, untenable as a commercial process to be sold to photography end-users, for digital has not only ruined much of the mystery of photography, it’s ruined the pricing structure as well. Now end-users ‘assume’ that they can get photography for nothing because there’s no film, but the cameras cost far more and last far less time, so the day-rates should be doubled from the 80’s, but instead are less than half.

    I’ve never stopped photographing on black & white film, especially for subjects I consider ‘legacy projects’, like jazz musicians, artists, politicians, etc., and only do about 50% of my projects on digital when demanded. I look forward to the day I don’t have to rely on the photographic industry for an income (read: retirement), so I can sell off my digital equipment on line and just go back to shooting film exclusively.

  • Epo

    I get that you love the ritual of film, but your methods of experimenting with different chemical compounds and trying different film stocks are equivalent to Photoshop’s adjustments and filters (without tidy little sliders). It could be that you’re more of a hands-on kind of guy but just because more photographers are less interested in ‘hard labor’ and would rather focus on art and engineering doesn’t make their work ‘soul-less’.

    Your other rants are more to do with how the digital age (a much broader scope than digital photography) has influenced the industry. There are obvious downsides that you’re well aware of but peaks come with valleys. If you don’t know how to take advantage, you will be lost in the floods. The get-off-my-lawn mentality ultimately hurts you in the end.

  • Kevin Soy

    like Peter replied I am startled that people able to profit $9801 in 1 month on the computer. More Bonuses


  • Crabby Umbo

    You’re missing the point EPO, people didn’t stop painting with oil because someone invented InDesign; but for some reason, there’s a certain group of people, that like to ridicule those who liked the physical film process and prefer to stay with it. It’s like telling a fine artist: “…yeah, well now that you can do this stuff on a computer, and any talentless monkey can make a fair approximation of what you used to do in oil, keeping with your love of your process is just stupid…” It isn’t. Oil painting is different than computer illustration like conventional photography is different than digital.

    My experimentation with film and chemistry isn’t the equivalent of moving sliders in PhotoShop, since PhotoShop has the limitations of what the designers were willing to put in it. And again, it’s sitting at a desk and looking at a screen: i.e. NOT what I want to do.

    What bothers me is that there always seems to be some other component about the “pro” digital ranters other than just the ease of doing photography; like maybe when it was conventional, they didn’t have the “chops” to do it, so if someone’s still doing conventional, it threatens their self-esteem. Not only do I still do marvelous black & white, I still get clients in the know to purchase my service. In fact, there are an increasing number of sub-30 art directors that are VERY interested in buying the “ancient film” process.

    It always seems like the “pro” digital ranters are so threatened and dismissive about people who love conventional. Hell, I have 39 years of lighting expertise and professional photography experience in all aspects of the industry; I really don’t care about what anyone’s doing in digital, I’m just doing what I’m doing and getting people to buy it; and isn’t that what it’s all about?

  • Wyodan

    Stupid and nonsensical comparison. Making art and manufacturing suburban houses are very different things. Oh BTW, don’t be so smug feeling ‘green’ and all. Pull your head out of your backside and do some research. Digital is incredibly dirty, from the manufacturing of disposable smartphones and cheap cameras to the never ending constant power consumption of data farms. Filthy, and only getting worse. Makes the days of dumping a bit of fixer down the drain seem like a long lost utopia.

  • Po’ Man

    Good luck being able to afford Osterman’s workshops. He only teaches the rich, or well connected.

  • Sassygirl

    LOL Actually he teaches people from all different backgrounds including many many students. Ostermans classes cost more because they are extremely well planned, properly prepared and because he’s the best.

  • gsum

    I believe their is a realization that digital is no always better. As a professional I shot digital but I am developing my traditional B&W skills. While frustrating at times I find silver prints have a depth and quality that digital can not offer unless you are in the 50 grand plus range for a medium format camera. The plus side is once I am done setting up my darkroom it will be good for many years. Digital you need to update every12-
    18 months. We still do not how long digital negatives will last.