Although I absolutely love what I do for a living, I am a strong believer in having an escape from the grind to help keep yourself fresh for working. Nearly all of my business related photography is based in digital capture. When I have time to shoot for myself, I tend to gravitate more towards analog imagery. That being said, I found and fell in love immediately with the Wet Plate Collodion process. This post is to show you guys a little about the process, and a few of my recent pieces, I’m still learning as I go, but I am very happy with where I am right now!
The Wet Plate Collodion process is a photographic process developed in the 1800s and introduced in 1851 by Fredrick Scott Archer, replacing the earlier Daguerreotype process. It is termed Wet Plate due to the need for the plate to remain wet through the entire photographic process. In the process, glass plates are hand cut to size, edges filed and cleaned, then hand coated in collodion. After a soak in Silver Nitrate the plates are placed in a plate carrier and the photograph is made using a large format camera. Exposure times vary, from a few seconds to over a minute. While still wet the plate is removed, immediately developed by hand in a darkroom, fixed, and washed. After drying out the plate is then coated with a protective varnish, baked on over the open flame of an alcohol lamp. The entire process from start to finish can take around an hour to complete one image.
In today’s photographic world many are obsessed with perfection in imagery. Hours are spent in programs like Photoshop to perfect people, products, and scenes to a point that was impossible until now. Though this perfection has a place in photography, I had developed a desire for something more hands on, something with imperfections that are a part of the beauty of it, something that has a magical feeling to the process. Wet Plate Collodion offers all of those, and more. There is something you feel that is hard to describe, as you watch an image form out of nothing during development on a once clear sheet of glass. The little tears, bubbles, and imperfections are unique to every image created. The hands on aspect, and satisfaction from the process is far different from pressing a button and having an image pop up on a digital screen. And to quote a friend, “art is in its best form when safety equipment is a necessity.”