>>>Collodion photography is both difficult and somewhat dangerous to do. It was invented
in 1851 by the Englishmen Frederick Scott Archer who has looking for a process that
could produce fine detail and negatives. It was one of the first photographic processes
invented. Cutting the glass. I use both black glass
and clear glass in the process. I use clear glass for negatives and black glass for positives.
I shoot everything from 11 x 14 to quarter plate.
Deburring the glass. You need to do this so you don’t get cuts on your hands because
of the cyanide used in the process. It also gives a ridge to hold the emulsion or the
film. Cleaning the glass. Although this step isn’t
very flattering, it’s extremely important. If the glass isn’t cleaned well the emulsion
or collodion will peel from the plate. Flowing the plate. This step is where you
actually pour the collodion onto the glass plate. It’s very technique driven. It takes
a lot of practice to do it correctly. The technique used here will determine if your
plate is smooth and ridge free and will determine how many defects or imperfections you have
in the plate. Sensitizing the plate. When the collodion
has reached a set point, the plate is dropped into a bath of silver nitrate for three to
four minutes. Exposing the plate. Exposure in wet paint
photography range from a few seconds to several minutes depending on the lighting, the chemistry
and what the photographer wants the image to look like.
Developing the plate. It only takes fifteen to twenty seconds to develop the plate but
you need to know what you’re looking for so you don’t overdevelop or under develop.
Fixing the plate. I use potassium cyanide to fix the images. I let the sitter wash from
a bluish negative to a warm positive ambro type.
Last year I bought a 1990 Dodge Caravan and put a dark room in the back of it. This has
allowed me to take wet-plate on the road and do portraits outside of my studio. While this
is exciting, it presents a whole new set of challenges for me and makes me appreciate
the photographers of the nineteenth century even more. The biggest challenge I have is
the technical aspects of the process. I have no running water and it’s much more difficult
to control the light when I’m not in my studio. But when it’s successful, it can
be very rewarding.