Interview: Deborah Parkin

We interviewed artist Deborah Parkin, asking her questions about her work with alternative photography processes…

Deborah Parkin

Deborah Parkin

Deborah Parkin - Picnic

Deborah Parkin – Picnic

Deborah Parkin - The Enchanted Forest

Deborah Parkin – The Enchanted Forest


When did you start using alternative photography processes?

I started using alternative photography processes about five or six years ago as it was one of my modules on a course I was doing.  We did pinhole, cyanotype and argyrotype,  absolutely loved it and knew that I wanted to explore more.

Why/when did you begin to use the collodion process?

I have loved the work of Julia Margaret Cameron for many years as hers was the first photographic exhibition I went too. I also visited the archives in Bradford and spent hours pouring over her prints, as well as prints by Lady Clementina Hawarden.
However, at the time I didn’t know of anyone who was teaching the process and the chemistry was not as readily available as it is now. For a while, I didn’t know where to start.  This changed about four years ago when my path crossed with Carl Radford. I had been in touch with Quinn Jacobson for advice and he pointed me in Carl’s direction. So,  On my 40th birthday I participated in Carl’s workshop and learned the process with him.

What do you think of the resurgence in interest with the Wet Collodion process?

I think it’s good.  I know there are some grumblings about how fashionable or faddish it is, but I like it that people still want to work with historical processes. It’s nice to keep the craft alive and I don’t think it should be an exclusive thing.  People do Wet Collodion  for various reasons, whether it is artistic, historical or chemical, and that is up to them.  I don’t really worry about what others are doing or why they are doing it as long as they are nice about it!  🙂

What is your favourite alternative photography process?

I have just started Bromoil and although it’s been quite a frustrating process to learn, I have to say I am loving it. At the moment, it’s my favourite!  I never really got into cyanotypes or platinum. I love collodion, but feel I have done enough and after 4 years, it’s time to try something new!

Is the material nature of the analogue process something that is significant within your work?

I try not to hide behind a process, I hope my work is engaging enough regardless.  However, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t important.  For me the process is part of the work in the same way the camera is, it’s a tool for what I want to convey.  For example, using a large format camera and the collodion process allowed me to work with the children in a way that would have been possible with another camera or medium. However, the collodion process is slow and the children engaged with it beautifully.  Sometimes, the children would lay for a minute in total stillness and that is where the process becomes important.  I am working on another series at the moment and although it’s very early days, I know what I am trying to portray and the Bromoil process will be perfect for it.

You often photograph your own children, could you explain why your children are an important subject for you to photograph?

I always believe in photographing what you love, what you know and understand intimately, and this happens to be my children.  I have done other kinds of photography (such as street and documentary) but it takes me away from my family. In this way, I am living with my photography.  I also photograph other children and although I didn’t know them as well as my own children, I did feel a connection with them. For example, when I look through the viewfinder & see a child, I remember my child, what it’s like to be a child and this inspires me.

You revisit your own childhood memories within your photography, could you say more about this?

This started as a project at university. We had to do something staged and I wanted to photograph my children so that I would be spending time with them and not going off to work on a project elsewhere. I decided to record moments from my own childhood and the project evolved & changed over the years to what you see now but it became an important part of my work.

Having children also made me reconnect to my childhood. I will be honest that at times I felt hurt or angry about it and although it’s probably a cliché, confronting some of these memories through my photography was very cathartic.  Although, the series ‘memory’ was the one that dealt more specifically with my childhood (particularly school) I think there is always a bit of me that seeps into my work. The photographs are about my children, but they are also about me and my relationship with them.


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