wet plate collodion
As I explored the world of digital portraits, I began to wrestle with the instantly gratifying nature of the medium. I became increasingly curious about the artistry required of the early photographic processes and the wonder they inspire in me. As I worked to achieve images that would inspire a similar sense of wonder, I felt limited. Therefore, on a whim in the summer of 2017, under the instruction of Justin and Angie Brockey, I took on the study of the antiquarian photographic process.
This body of work, which I coined the "Wonder + Light Project”, was based on the concept of photographing images that provoke a sense of wonder with the extended light-exposure times required to produce the unique process. Through this project, it became my hope to bring revival to the origins of photography in both the artist community and the mainstream while I capture wonder, in the everyday, as it is shown to me.
WHAT IS WET PLATE COLLODION?
The Wet Plate Collodion Process was invented in 1851 by Frederick Scott Archer and is the second oldest photographic process ever. Characterized by the use of a collodion chemistry, it is described as the the use of a syrupy nitrocellulose mixture of alcohol and ether used to coat a plate of glass (ambrotype) or tin (tintype), sensitize it to light with silver nitrate, expose it, and develop it in a matter of minutes wherein the plate must stay wet until completion.
What makes this process so unique is that each glass or tin plate will capture not only it’s subject, but also the elements present in that moment. During the lengthy process, the syrupy collodion will collect anything present from the oils of the fingers that touched it to the fibers of the photographer’s clothes; even the microscopic pollen and dust in the air can embed itself into the photograph. These characteristics are impossible to duplicate, making each image truly a one-of-a-kind historical image. I love that these characteristics simply cannot be replicated by any digital post processing.
The Collodion process was preceded only by the daguerreotype in 1839. Presently, these photographs are recognized by their rich black and silver-white aesthetic, often depicting subjects in Civil War and Wild West portraiture.