Hi! My name is Jen Perena, aka Kallitype Girl.
I have been taking classes in alternative process techniques for over 10 years. I have made platinum and palladium prints, tin types, albumin prints, ambrotypes, cyanotypes, salt prints, wet plate collodion glass plates, and most recently kallitypes, which are my favorite to date, and probably the end all of my exploration of alternative processes….at least for the next few years!
I see myself as purely an amateur photographer, an alt process enthusiast, and a peripheral artist, making work in my spare time outside of my full time job as a learning specialist/technical trainer at a telecom company. Everything I have learned has been through classes at the Flower City Arts Center Photo Dept. Every skill I have from the talented teachers in the alt process classes, and all of my inspiration from the teachers, fellow students, and members who regularly exhibit in annual gallery shows.
I grew up looking at, taking and appreciating photographs. My maternal grandfather was an ‘early adopter’ of photographic technology and took a camera with him around the world during his time in the Navy in the 1940s, filling numerous scrapbooks with ‘slice of life’ photos from on board his ships and from his interactions with local people in the various countries where he was posted. I remember constantly looking through the large, leather-bound albums as a young child, fascinated by the very small, contrasty black and white prints with white borders and wavy edges. My father was also a photographer, and for a short period had his own business taking portraits and family photos. His camera was the first one I ever held in my hand: a Nikon F3, which I later used in a photography class in high school, and which I still have to this day.
I am drawn to black and white as my preferred medium, but after numerous classes and darkroom sessions, was not satisfied with the end results or the process. I was shooting film, making work and exhibiting it annually in group shows, but after the shows would end the photos would go in a box never to be seen again. About 10 years ago this changed when I took a Holga class. I immediately loved the plastic camera with its quirks and light leaks, and the idea that each roll of film would be a crap shoot of whether anything would turn out. This was a bit more interesting to me because of the random chance that no matter what you did, a light leak or internal issue could impact the film. Then when you finally saw the film, you had to work harder to make something from the negatives.
Fast forward a few more years, and I began taking alternative and historic photo process classes. It was like a ‘eureka moment’ for me – introducing numerous steps into the process of making a print, each one with a potentially different outcome, even though you essentially did the same thing. The quality of the original negative (composition aside) stopped really mattering when you were battling your own diligence preparing tin or glass plates, humidity and the age of the chemistry. And for me, this process became sort of addicting.
I finally settled on the process I like best: contact printing – when I took a Palladium Printing class. Using Holga negatives, I made dozens of small, contrasty black and white prints – reminiscent of the ones I had loved in my grandfather’s albums – except the wavy white borders of his paper prints were replaced by the thick black borders made by brushstrokes as I painted chemistry onto different papers to make my work.
More recently, I have been making kallitypes, which are very similar, with slightly different chemistry and a larger format. For these, I have been combining digital work with alt process. I start with iphone images; these are then manipulated in Photoshop to create interesting black and whites with a specific curve for the kallitype process; the resulting digital negative is printed onto Pictorico plastic and then used for contact printing. The chemistry is all hand mixed and manually applied to watercolor paper, and then the prints are developed, washed, toned and fixed in numerous baths. Each print is a labor of love and no two are alike. And I love that.