Alternative Emulsions


Date: September 23 – 24, 2017
Workshop: 10am – 5pm (both days)
Location: LaborBerlin, Prinzenallee 58, 13359 Berlin

This workshop is open to non-LaborBerlin members. Participation is limited and pre-registration is required. To register for the workshop please send an email to
Workshop fee for non-members: 50 €

A hands-on workshop that concentrates on two distinct Alternative Emulsion processes; Cyanotype, an iron emulsion process that produces a striking Prussian Blue image and Van Dyke Brown, an iron/silver emulsion that produces a beautiful and painterly sepia coloured image.

An intensive introduction into the alchemical nature of moving images showing a variety onto alternative, light sensitive, emulsions. We will explore the arts of home­brewed film emulsions and explore a variety of options for coating the emulsion onto 16mm film. A basic chemistry lesson will be provided to introduce the essential make-­up of these emulsions, followed by the creation of the emulsion in a darkroom. These emulsions will be created from scratch, using the key ingredient in the production of alternative emulsion:  ferric ammonium citrate. With our handmade film stock we will: expose photograms, make contact prints and hand­-process the results so they are ready for projection.

This practical workshop is suitable for anyone with an interest in film, photography, printing, art or working without computers. Making alternative emulsions is easy, the results are supercharged, the chemicals required are cheap and relatively safe and you can adapt most of the operations to your living room. The workshop covers every aspect of homebrewing alternatively, from coating 16mm film, making an exposure, developing the print and toning the final image. Participants will finish with a solid understanding of each process, its chemistry and practical tips to use in their own practice. Homebrew emulsions have a distinct and wonderful look to them that cannot be duplicated by other means and provide a wonderful basis for nearly endless experimentation. See the results by the end of the session! All chemicals, protective wear, and supplies are included.

Many of the alternative emulsions in use today are variants of the non-silver processes developed by Sir John Herschel in 1842 and they are among the oldest of all photographic processes. His Cyanotype is the original sun-light printing process and distinctive for producing rich, Prussian blue monochromatic prints, Cyanotype was used well into the 20th century as an inexpensive method for reproducing photographs, documents, maps and plans (hence the enduring architectural term “blueprint”), as well as for making impressions of biological specimens in the field (“photograms”). Another process, the Van Dyke Brown process, was named for the resemblance of the print color to the brown oil paint named for the Flemish painter Van Dyck. Both Cyanotype as Van Dyke Brown emulsions are very simple and economical to make and use water not only to develop the image but also to fix it and wash away the non-image-forming chemicals.

Esther Urlus is a Rotterdam-based artist working with motion picture film formats Super8, 16mm and 35mm. Resulting in films, performances and installations, her works always arise from DIY methods. Urlus’ work has been exhibited and screened at film festivals worldwide, among other 25FPS Festival Zagreb, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Oberhausen Short Film Festival, Sonic Acts, and the International Film Festival Rotterdam. Urlus is the founder of WORM Filmwerkplaats, Rotterdam, an artist-run workspace dedicated to motion picture film as an artistic, expressive medium.

“In my film work I create a link between specific historical events and stories and the (re) use of analog film techniques and inventions from the early days of photography and cinematography. I force a sometimes alienating parallel between the events or the story and the cinematic technique, to enhance the impact of the image. In addition, I create my own film material, literally, by mixing iron or silver compounds and salt with gelatin and water to form a light-sensitive emulsions. I’m not looking for a naturalist, commercial like film material, outcome. I intend to create unique components that, by its singularity, generates a special and cinematic experience. ”