borut peterlin, slovenia, ambrotype, Portrait photography, Wet Plate Collodion, Analog Film photography

Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Documentary project Great Depression

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Two years ago, at the start of my wet plate collodion path, I set myself a project to document state of bankrupt companies. Imagine the moment when the last worker at the last shift, turned the lights out. The moment when it became dead silent.

Now when I’m looking back at my videos (LINK) even blind would see the progress I’ve made. Nevertheless I love imperfection on my plates, so my plates don’t compete with flawlessness of film. This plate that is published under is about as perfect as I want it to be.

Last Thursday I went back to photograph Novoles company and Marcos Núñez Cid was recording a video about my project. He made a true masterpiece. I’m sure you will enjoy it.

Let me highlight that this project is getting quite some attention. First I had a beautiful exhibition in Gallery Photon, Ljubljana, Slovenia, then it was published in DOC! Photomagazine, issue #21, from pages 140-169 and in May, it will be featured in one of the UK’s leading photography magazines. The project was chosen to be presented on a group touring show under organization of European Month of Photography, so if I understood it correctly it will travel across Europe. Last but not least, I also sended this images to Slovenian Photography of the Year competition and the project did not pass even the first round of selection of 30 artists! If that’s not an achievement, then I don’t know what is!


An article in DELO magazin on reviving Studio Pelikan

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In yesterday’s issue of Delo, the most important Slovenian daily newspaper, a huge article was published about the project of reviving skylight Studio Pelikan. It was a joy to see again Jure Eržen, a colleague photojournalist and of course he made fantastic pics of me working. He is one of the best if not the best Slovenian photojournalist. Saša Bojc made a lovely article and by luck also Božena Pelikan joined us. She is 91 years old youngest daughter of Josip Pelikan and you can imagine her contribution to the article was very interesting indeed.

On this blog I’m publishing the negative I’ve done that day. It’s digitally inverted wet plate collodion negative, format 10×12″, that’s 25x30cm. I had big problems with dust, but I’ll retouch the negative before I’ll make a carbon print out of it. I’m learning how to retouch a wetplate collodion negative and with the help of Mark Osterman, I’m on a good path. More about that later. For now, just a quick note, if you missed the article.

If you are in Vermont, USA, you can see one of my salt prints that was chosen for the exhibition of handmade photographs. It’s exhibited in Vermont Center for Photography. These images are done by Terri Cappucci. THANK YOU!!

Video from skylight Studio Pelikan

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Wet Plate Collodion portraiture in skylight Studio Pelikan by Borut Peterlin from culturaesmorbo on Vimeo.

Markele Zid made this video about our daily life in Studio Pelikan. It’s a job, somebody’s got to do it… :-)
We’re working on a website too. You must come to see this gem from our cultural heritage! It’s part of Museum of Recent History Celje and it’s located on Razlagova ulica 5, Celje, Slovenia, EU. The studio is open for public and I do make public portraiture sessions, but I’m not in the studio every day, so please send an email of inquiry to address tajnistvo(at) and then we’ll find a term.

Just breaking the ice

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Today's plate of my daughters playing on the tree.

Today’s plate of my daughters playing on the tree.

This blog became followed quite a lot and somehow I stopped publishing my daily discoveries what was the main purpose of the blog. Now I want that every post would be a gem, but that’s nonsense. This blog is about my path in photography. Nothing more, nothing less. This blog post is just to break the ice and I’m publishing what I’ve done today.

On Thursday a student came to my studio to make a wet plate collodion negative and a salt print. Although we were working for four hours I barely made one decent wet plate collodion negative and a gelatine print. After she left I’ve did trough maintenance of my silverbath although it was something more then a week after I’ve boiled it. Today I finished with all the procedure and decided to make some tests. First I photographed neighbor’s beautiful cottage. It’s a perfect motif, because it has deep red shadows and bright highlights. Why simple if we can push it, right? As you can see I first made a step test, to establish correct exposure. Step test goes, 5s, 10s, 20s, 40s at aperture f/16. My silverbath have pH of 5.5 so it’s pretty fast. If you don’t know, high pH is suitable only for wet plate negative, for positive you need to lower it to about 3-4pH. on Ebay I bought spot meter so I did Ansel Adams zone system. I measured the dynamic range of light and did a step test. On the picture you see EV numbers. Where the number is, there was measured. Roof, shadow, bush, treetops… Of course collodion is very sensitive to blue and UV and it’s not sensitive for red and orange. Also it’s very low sensible to green, so the lightmeter readings aren’t reliable, but it’s an estimate.

I decided for 20 second exposure, where blacks were transparent, empty. You don’t want to have blacks that are gray and whites that are gray as well! I’ve been blogging about contrast and density manipulation before (LINK). The second plate was a perfect negative. The scan did not capture full tonal range and missed most of highlights in trees, since I didn’t waste time with HDR scanning, but on the negative you can see perfectly tree tops.

Encouraged I decided to make a 10×12″ negative of a tree that I was photographing last few days. The tree is few hundred meters away from my home, so I set up the camera and went home for a plateholder. When I came back my daughters climbed the tree and I took this image. I just measured light in the black and it was 8 EV, so I exposed 30 seconds at f/5.5. Tomorrow or day after I’ll make a carbon print from the negative. Markele is also making a video. It’ll be fun.

THis weekend I went to Pula to put down my exhibition. We’re planning to make a week long wet plate workshop at Croatian seaside. Dates aren’t fixed yet, but it’ll be in the beginning of June. Interested?

Written by Borut Peterlin

17 March, 2014 at 00:15

Flower Power exhibition in Helsinki

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Few weeks ago I participated at a group exhibition Flower Power in Kallio Kunsthalle in Helsinki. The director and founder of the gallery is Petri Saarikko with whom we were working together at Fabrica, the research center of communication of United Colors of Benetton. We were there in years 2000/01. I’ve made this short video about the documentation of the exhibition. I hope you will like it. The gallery is known for it’s non-mainstream exhibitions and it’s alternative representations of artwork. I’m saying they are post-postmodern gallery.

In fact I had two exhibition. Beside the one in the kunsthalle, the second was more candid. Petri printed my Great Depression pictures and we pin them on their pinboard and put them the window of Elokolo. Elokolo is an organisation that among other things also offers support to people who became unemployed. In the morning when they are offering free meal, they invited me to give a speech about my work, highlighting Great Depression project.

I had a lovely time in Helsinki. I met Tarmo, the main wet plate president from Estonia. In Helsinki we did a crash course on wet plate negative and salt printing. I tell you, wet plate negative is going to be the new topshit thing! Tintypes are so tenties…

Written by Borut Peterlin

5 March, 2014 at 23:56

From my exhibition in Pula, Croatia, with love ;-)

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The video and about the show photographs done by Markele Zid

Last few weeks too much stuff happened. But let me share them on my blog chronologically. On 13th of February I’ve opened a solo show in Slovenian Association Club in Pula, Croatia and it will be open for a month time. On the show I’m exhibiting 39 pieces of my series Family Album. With resources that I had, I was using different kinds of frames, so I conceived the show in a dynamic manner. Different walls, different frames, different emotions,…

A selfportrait with my daughters. Done in wet plate collodion negative, format 8x10". Assistant Markele Zid

A selfportrait with my daughters. Done in wet plate collodion negative, format 8×10″. Assistant Markele Zid

Yesterday I’ve made a great self-portrait with my daughters. Do you know the story of Janus? Wiki: In ancient Roman religion and myth, Janus (Latin: Ianus, pronounced [ˈiaː.nus]) is the god of beginnings and transitions,[1] thence also of gates, doors, passages, endings and time.

An update on my Great Depression project

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Do you remember my project Great Depression? I’ve start working on it in December 2012 (LINK) and I had exhibition in October 2013 (link) Yesterday I continued to work on the project. I was in meat factory MIP D.D. (in bankruptcy process). I really wanted to document this factory, because it’ll bring a new dimension to my picture series. Images are showing a disassembly line of a living beings and it the context of my Great Depression photography project, it could be interpreted as a disassembly line not for cattle and pigs, but for humans. Say no more. Images are images and every possible interpretation is a valid one.

I think I’ll go one more time to the slaughterhouse and make few more images…

Sunday is a good and dry collodion day

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A scan of a dry collodion negative. Exposure 25 minutes at f/5.6.  (I could make it faster by 1.5 f stop)

A scan of a dry collodion negative. Exposure 25 minutes at f/5.6.
(I could make it faster by 1.5 f stop)

Today it was Sunday. It still is, but concerning the the speed of my writing it will take me two hours and it will be past midnight. Again… So where to start. Basically I’m using this free time that I have during holidays for researching processes, equipment and aesthetic. Very soon I’m planning to go to Bosnia for a test shoot on a new project I’m preparing. In 2015 there will be 20th anniversary of the end of the war in Bosnia and I want to prepare an exhibition on the topic.

OK, let’s start with the new member of my family. Please read captions of my images, this post will be more in telegraphic style.

Charconnet Petzval:
I bought a petzval lens! Gasc & Charconnet Paris Vintage lens is less known and less expensive than Dallmeyer or Hermagis but it’s in the same quality range. Made in years around 1860′s. So now I’m playing around, see what the baby have to offer. Please read the captions and you’ll see what images are done with the lens. Most of them.

Carbon Printing
I’m so much in love with carbon prints! it’s amazing! I love it.

Dry Preserved Collodion Negatives
As much as I love the idea of not carrying all the chemistry and a darkroom around, the dry collodion is not a shortcut. You spend ten times as much time to process one plate. Just developing of a single plate that I’ve shot today it took me literally an hour! That being said, it’s very useful tool to have in my assortiment of expression.

PS: That chopped down tree was cut by a beaver. It’s amazing, that this animals that are almost extinct are living literally in downtown of Dolenjske Toplice! Look carefully the last image, you’ll see that the beaver chewed whole trunk! So cool!

Santa brought me… time for Carbon Print process!

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A carbon print from redeveloped wet plate negative.

A carbon print from redeveloped wet plate negative.

As topshit readers of my blog know, in November I was in George Eastman House, taking a course on Carbon Print process under mentorship of Mark Osterman and Nick Brandreth. Almost two months passed and I didn’t found time to do the process at home. Finally I found some time during these holidays.

Carbon print process is considered as the king of all printing processes ever invented. It has the highest tonality dynamic range and on top of that it’s permanent. It does not require developing or fixing. Just washing away unhardened gelatin. I will not go into details, WIKI is much more reliable source than me. What I will tell you is that at GEH museum I was inspecting carbon from year 1870 and they were still spectacular. Paper yellowed, but the print itself was in perfect condition (link). What I will tell you that most people practice carbon print from a film negative or from a digital negative, but the best medium is a collodion negative. It’s a perfect match.The best way of recording light (tonality and resolution wise) with the best way to print a negative.

As I’ve said only yesterday I’ve started preparing my tissue (a temporary support sheet coated with a layer of gelatin mixed with a pigment) and you must know one thing. Materials vary a lot. Like I couldn’t get sumi ink, so I bought black ink. It says Indian ink in English and under is a german translation: Chinesische Tusche. Chinese or Indian, who knows. The density of pigment in the tissue is very important. As we were warned on the workshop that the quantities written in a manual are just starting point. You have to make tests to see how materials are working in the constellation that happens to be in a darkroom.

So that explained I didn’t had high hopes that I’ll make something good. But in fact I’ve made my best print I ever printed! I’ve done tests and made a print that was not as contrasty as I’ve judged it could be. I had only one more sensitized tissue left, so I’ve looked first negative that was needed 3 minutes of exposure, checked the second redeveloped super contrasty negative and decided that I’ll try it out with 9 minutes. The exposure and the density of the negative were perfect for the tissue I’ve prepared, so here is the result. I’m super proud on it.

Now I have a treasure of knowledge in my hands. Thanks to Miša Keskenović I’ve learn wet plate collodion positive, thanks to Mark Osterman I’ve learned also wet plate collodion negative, salt, albumen and carbon printing and Jeroen de Wijs taught me how to do dry collodion negative. So now I feel like my hands are golden. With the knowledge I can and will move mountains! Ha! Topshit does happen, I tell you!

Vintage studio backgrounds of Josip Pelikan, dated about 1930′s

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Vintage background from skylight studio Josip Pelikan, MNZC museum, Celje, Slovenia.

Vintage background from skylight studio Josip Pelikan, MNZC museum, Celje, Slovenia.

Vintage background from skylight studio Josip Pelikan, MNZC museum, Celje, Slovenia.

Vintage background from skylight studio Josip Pelikan, MNZC museum, Celje, Slovenia.

Astrid asked me if I could take a picture of fantastic vintage studio backgrounds that were using Josip Pelikan, so after I got a permission from the museum I’m publishing them on my blog. On Flickr you can download a hires file of the image, just click all sizes. Vintage backgrounds are dated about 1930′s. The skylight studio was built in 1898 and bought by Josip Pelikan in 1922. Nowadays Josip Pelikan Photographic Studio is a branch of the Celje Museum of Recent History. If you going to use the files to make your own vintage look studio background, just leave a note in the back that it was done on the basis of backgrounds from Josip Pelikan Studio, Celje, Slovenia, EU. A lot of people from MNZC museum worked hard to renovate the skylight studio and we owe them at least a credit. THX.

I’ve been thinking. My friend ordered a painted movie poster from India and if you know a painter’s service like that, share the info and good luck! Perhaps we can make a group order and get a discount. Just a thought…

Yesterday I was portraying in the studio and I’ve made this plate. Also a colleague photojournalist Andraž Purg came by and made a portrait of me.

Portrait by Borut Peterlin in wet plate collodion technique in skylight Studio Pelikan, Celje, Slovenia, EU.Borut Peterlin in Josip Pelikan Studio


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