Survey 2014



A summary of the explorative study
defining the applications and needs of alternative photography consumers

Alternative Photography is the practice of non-mainstream photographic techniques. 

The explorative study defining the applications and need of Alternative Photography consumers was designed to collect information on the practices of Alternative Photography worldwide, including demographic data and practices, the needs of consumers and the understanding of the term Alternative Photography. The study also paid additional attention to the Benelux region. 974 Alternative Photography practitioners from 66 countries contributed to the survey in the autumn of 2014.

The study yields valuable information concerning Alternative Photography practices. A significant finding is the high number of users (52%) practising Alternative Photography for less than five years. Roughly 60% of these ‘newcomers’, are younger than 45 years old and practise Film Photography as a hobby. The largest group of ‘newcomers’ appears to be in Middle and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. 

Most applied techniques are related to Film Photography, equally so, among those who practise Historical Photography-related processes as their primary technique. The most popular Alternative Photography techniques are Film Photographic Techniques, pinhole photography, cyanotype, silver gelatin prints, Lomography and instant photography.

Consumers purchase their supplies primarily at suppliers specialised in either Film Photography or Historical Photographic techniques, as well as local stores. A majority of the consumers does not have complaints concerning unavailable or difficult to obtain supplies. The main inaccessible supplies are films and chemicals. A large number of reports regarding supplies comes from Middle and South America, Africa, Asia and Australia.

There is widely available information and knowledge on Alternative Photography processes. Searching through establishment and community channels mentioned in this survey, a person could find all information needed, either published or on request. In the survey participants ask extensively for assistance regarding education and information. At the same time, inconsistency is found in communication channels used by the participants. There is a high contrast between expected usage and reality. Social media is used for enhancing knowledge rather than for connecting with the community. At the same time, some channels designed for providing knowledge, are primarily used to connect with the community. Participants use, on average, two different communication channels, while in total, 49 different channels were mentioned in the responses to the survey. These evidences in the study clearly show that available knowledge and information does not always reach consumers. There are many communication channels, but their usage is ineffective. Aside from these indications, the term Alternative Photography is defined in various ways by users. Some users did not participate in the survey because they did not consider the topic to be relevant to their practices. Moreover, when designing the survey, some establishments were excluded from the optional answers, simply because their existence was not known to the author. They were not mentioned by co-operating establishments, nor were they visible when searching for possible establishments on the internet. These two facts affected the participation and hence the results of this survey. They give a good example of how these communication barriers can have a negative effect on actions and developments in the community.

Furthermore, over a third of the participants in the survey requested help and suggested development in the field. They referred to making supplies available and affordable, extending online and offline education possibilities, and getting assistance with fundraising and exhibitions. They also referred to increasing international co-operation and acting for the benefit of the community by enhancing marketing strategies, growing awareness for Alternative Photography and providing sustainability in the field.

The study displays demographic similarity between the Benelux and the worldwide users. There is a considerably higher rate of Film Photography practices in the Benelux compared with the worldwide practices. The Benelux users purchase their supplies at Film Photography-related suppliers, yet not at Historical Photography-related suppliers. The majority regards Film Photography as part of Alternative Photography. Finally, the Benelux users prefer Analoog Foto Forum to as an information channel. The use of communication channels is found to be rather effective compared to the usage worldwide.

The above-mentioned facts indicate a possible growth in the practices of Alternative Photography and raise issues concerning communication, education and supplies that need attention.

The results of the study detect positive trends in Alternative Photography practices worldwide as well as in the Benelux region. The amount of participation in this survey shows great dedication of the users. A contribution of 974 volunteers participating in a survey is considerably high, especially for an explorative study promoted by a relatively unknown organization (Dutch Alternative Photography). The eagerness the participants showed in providing extensive answers to the open questions revealed their commitment. The broad assistance from many establishments, the enthusiastic reactions and willingness to promote the survey have reflected the loyalty of the Alternative Photography community. A slight majority of the participants in this survey practises Alternative Photography for five years or less and is younger than 45 years old. The high amount of young practitioners might indicate a growth in the number of users and a promising development in the field. 

This study has been a first data recording of Alternative Photography practices worldwide. It is therefore impossible to draw conclusions regarding growth of practices in the field. Simultaneously, this study may not represent the complete population of Alternative Photography practitioners worldwide. It rather portrays an image of practitioners who are connected to the internet, who use online channels of Alternative Photography establishments and communities, and who are willing to participate in surveys. However, this study clearly shows a substantial attendance of enthusiastic Alternative Photography users. As such results of this study give an extensive oversight of these consumers, their stated needs in this survey should be paid attention to.
The consumers have sought assistance and raised some issues in the study that should be considered. The need for available supplies and knowledge is highlighted. The results of the survey also show lack of sufficient communication. Enhanced collaboration between organisations could be helpful in solving these issues. It is therefore recommended that establishments in the field of Alternative Photography work together to provide solutions to the needs of consumers. They should bear in mind the high number of newcomers and consider a suitable term to describe non-mainstream photographic processes, as the term Alternative Photography is ambiguous.

Concerning the communication, the study shows that some knowledge and information does not reach the users due to a high number of communication channels. To improve the dissemination of knowledge and information, the number of information channels could be limited. The most widely used and publicly visible channels could be preferred as main channels. These channels could serve as either the basis of all information or as navigators to other existing channels. The limitation of channels can be accomplished by the willingness of the chosen main channels to expand their services where needed. The willingness of other channels, establishments and communities to connect through a limited number of channels and to co-operate for improved communication results, would be equally essential for this course of action.
The lack of films and difficulty in obtaining chemicals were expressed by users in the survey. Some of the complaints are based on regional regulations and are therefore difficult to resolve. Other complaints regard high prices. Suggestions for collective purchases were made in the survey. Collective purchases can be easily achieved by co-operation between establishments, in combination with clear communication through the appropriate channels.

Solving issues with regards to films (bringing discontinued films back, adding a variety of new films and pricing) are mainly within the domination of the commercial establishments. However, the community can influence those establishments in two ways: expressing users’ wishes and expanding the community, thus creating a higher product demand. This can be achieved by propagating Alternative Photography outside the existing community.     

Finally, the users expressed wishes for international collaboration, financial assistance, exhibitions, international events and knowledge centres. These can be accomplished by using this report a basis for grant submissions with regards to Alternative Photography activities. 

As this was the first survey of its kind in the field of Alternative Photography, it provides a broad overview of alternative photographic practices and the Alternative Photography community. Due to the limited design and realisation possibilities of the survey, it should not be used for calculating statistics or forecasting future trends. The survey can be applied for improving present practices and providing basis for future studies.

The full report of the study is available on: