TOPSHIT PHOTOGRAPHY blog

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

Archive for the ‘Large format camera’ 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!

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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)mnzc.si and then we’ll find a term.

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.

Contemporary art project in wet plate collodion negative and carbon print

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Ciao ragazzi, I’ve listed a new print on EBAY, starting as an auction of US $0.99.

The story about this print is:

Beside 19th century photography processes I love contemporary art just as well. By Wikipedia the definition of contemporary art begins with a sentence: Contemporary art is art produced at the present period in time.

I am not an art historian, but I think that’s nonsense! If I create the same kind of images that were made 100 years ago, how can that be a contemporary art work? By my definition contemporary art has nothing to do with the current time that was created but with the attitude to create something that wasn’t done before. Contemporary art (by my personal understanding) is taking reference from art history but involving in the concept contemporary issues and by doing that the artist get across a certain personal view, a certain personal message. Because contemporary art is always a sort of an experiment, that is why contemporary art is so experimental, so unique and without one leading concept or aesthetic.

And this is my artistic credo in creating this photograph. Most of the story is told in the movie. In the movie I’m making a reference to the book Looking at Photographs by Szarkowski. I want to add that in 1995 I’ve seen an exhibition of Andreas Gursky in Georges Pompidou Center, Paris and one of the most impressive images was a huge picture of running shoes. I can’t find the image on Internet, but let me describe that visually the Gursky’s image was looking like a perfect product shot printed as a C-Type print size about 2×3 meters. I didn’t like the image at the time and to be honest I’m not fan of his work even now, but that does not mean I can’t learn something from his work.

The point of Gursky’s running shoes is basically the same as mine. I know, you’re seeing that kind of shoes every day, but look again! In the contrast to Gursky, my running shoes are really mine and I did run many hundred of kilometers with them and wore them out totally. My feet are imprinted in the shoes and so are thoughts… The first lesson I draw from Gursky’s work is that the trivial object can look extraordinary if presented in such a way.

The second visual reference is the book One Third by Klaus Pichler. I bought it at Anzenberger Gallery bookshop. The book is fantastisch! The little visual element that I needed for my image was the elevated object on black canvas.

The carbon print is made from wet plate collodion negative and it’s a part of a limited edition of 12 prints. I’ll donate one to George Eastman House, where I’ve learned this beautiful technique and I’ll donate one print with the running shoes to the SONS Museum for the collection of shoes by artists. But the copy number one goes to ebay as an auction starting from US 0.99$.

With the work I’m making an artistic statement about our consumer society, about how public relation image is cherished more then the real thing or a real person itself.

Because readers of my blog share with me a passion toward technical solutions of these antiquarian techniques I feel obligated to write about that as well. I was using Vageeswari 10×12″ camera with Voigtlander Heliar 300mm lens, closed down to f/32. I’ve illuminated the shoes with four flash heads of joined power 7000Ws and to achieve good density I had to flash 54 times. Wet plate collodion negative loves flash light, but as a lazy medium needs a lot of light! I was developing the negative for 3 minutes.
For carbon print I was using Indian Ink as a pigment and for temporary support of carbon tissue I was using the back side of cibachrome paper. You can see brown emulsion of the paper in the video. For final support I’ve used fixed out gelatin paper.

On the end let me thank Marcos Núñez Cid, my assistant from Spain for making this wonderful video.

PS: By the way, that’s already second print from the project. You can see the post about the first salt print that was sold to China for something more than US $300 (with shipping).

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!

Density of negatives

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Tomorrow I’m flying for Rochester, USA, where I’ll join Mark Osterman‘s workshop of Carbon Printing Transfer. It’s literally a pilgrimage for me (as an atheist), to come to George Eastman House museum and take a workshop with Mark Osterman. I never did a carbon transfer print, I am also not aware to see one although I’ve must have seen a carbon print in various museums I’ve visited, but still it’s described as the king of printing process, so it’s time to meet the king! Mark asked us to bring our own negatives and so yesterday I’ve done negatives of different densities. It’s no secret how it’s done. The same as with ordinary film. As Mark Osterman have taught me, exposure gives you information, development gives you density, so according to this commandment, I overexpose and underdevelop for low contrast and just the opposite for high contrast. (read captions for more info). The highest contrast negative is redeveloped. I’ll not go into details since this is very specific collodion technique. Before I headed for the pilgrimage I’ve done also a salt print, to remind the master Osterman that the king carbon print must make a better print. Ha! I do martial arts and the peak of the training is when you test your skills against your teacher and you get beaten as a sack of beans. No doubt this will be the case also this time. I always aim beyond my reach and then see how will I do. Ha, I so much look forward!!!

But nevertheless the salt print is gorgeous and it will present the best challenge I can make with salt print process against carbon print process. Obnoxious in that kind of creative way I was always been :-)

PS: all reproductions have my dirty finger in the frame as a reference point that it is not digitally altered. Plus the print is dry! It’s not like super cooper wet and when you dry it all the blacks are gone…

How to make a ground glass for view camera

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I’ve broken my ground glass on my Vageeswari camera and I’ve made a new one. Read captions.

Written by Borut Peterlin

16 September, 2013 at 00:14

Wet plate collodion process and silver-bath maintenance

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My daughter Lučka is 9 years old and she's riding horse from age of 4. During summer break she didn't ride a horse, so she made up this toy horse with two brums. Brum behind is a tail. Today I've finished with boiling and filtering silver nitrate  and made this ambrotype, format 8x10" that's 20x25cm.

My daughter Lučka is 9 years old and she’s riding horse from age of 4. During summer break she didn’t ride a horse, so she made up this toy horse with two brums. Brum behind is a tail. Today I’ve finished with boiling and filtering silver nitrate and made this ambrotype, format 8×10″ that’s 20x25cm.

My last post was about my commision in Switzerland. I’ve shot many plates and when I’ve came back I was sunning the bath for a day (bright sunny day), filtering, etc, but I was still not getting that super sharp shining silver on my plates. With usage of silver-nitrate bath, alcohol, ether, iodides, organic particles and other stuff they dissolve in the bath and you can not get them entirely out with barely sunning.

Common practice is that silver-bath is regularly sunned and boiled only once or twice a year. That goes for ambrotypes, that’s positives. Whereas wet plate collodion negative technique reveals all dirty secrets of silverbath (not to mention photographer’s secrets) and if you want to get a good negative frequent boiling is necessary. Major enemy of wet plate negative is excess of iodides in silverbath and the syndrome of that are white dots in negative or black dots in positive. Or to quote Mark Osterman: “free iodides” cause pinholes in collodion images.”

So what I’m trying to say is that I very often boil my silverbath for usage in wet plate negative, but I also fall in love in the quality of ambrotypes that are produced after freshly boiled and cleaned silver-bath.

How is it done? You can find this technique in The NEW Scully & Osterman Collodion Manual. I can explain you how I am doing it, but I must warn you that I’m Slavic origin and not Germanic or even Anglo-Saxon origin, so if you can use an advice about cleanness from a Slav, then you must be pretty desperate…

Boiling…

Boiling silvernitrate with Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)

Boiling silvernitrate with Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)

Add one small table spoon of baking soda in about one liter of AgNO3 solution. At this stage the pH should be about 6-7pH. I must warn you that boiling silver-nitrate with Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) will look like the end of your wetplate career, but that’s how it should look. To be clear, the silver-nitrate in the picture above looked perfectly clear before boiling, but since I’ve sensitized about 30 plates format 10×12″ (cca. 2.25 square meters) I knew it’s full of iodides, alcohol, ether and dissolved organic matter. Only when I started boiling it with soda all the feces came out…

A friend asked me the other day how to raise pH in silver-bath after you added few drops of nitric acid. This is the best way. On FB a colleague Michael Koerner wrote a comment: “Plus the sodion bicarbonate (NaHCO3) will (when acidified with nitric acid) turn to carbonic acid (H2CO3), which will over a short time turn to water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) – bubbles away.”

After boiling you need to add water, filter it, sunn it, filter it, measure gravity of AgNO3, add nitric acid so the pH is back to 4 and you’re finished! Your silver-nitrate bath is reseted. You must know that silverbath like that will be more aggressive then your usual silver-bath, so it’s good to shorten sensibilisation time. I shortened to 2:15 minutes at room temperature. Mark Osterman is highlighting that sensibilization process is judged visually and not measured by time. I think I know what he means, but I need to confirm with him that I truly understand this part of the process, next time when I will see the master. I’m planning to join his workshop of Carbon Printing in Rochester in November. So exciting!

To sum up. I love to reset my silverbath, because then I’m getting best results. Boiling does take toll. I loose about 13.722% of my silverbath solution due to filtering. After boiling I filter the solution about 4 times through double coffee filters. Personally I find it worth the effort, but in wetplate process everyone have their own way of doing things and I’m not saying this method is better than any other. It works for me and that’s the true beauty of this hand-made images. You do it your own way! Ha!

PS: I’ve changed the title of this blog. Before it was Photography Down the Rabbit Hole, but the title Topshit Photography blog is way better. Topshit happens!

PPS: TOmorrow I’m going back to Switzerland to do some more work. Obviously they think the work that I’ve done is worth the money, so more work is waiting for me. Topshit happens!

PPPS: Relevant links:
- http://collodion.org/ Scully & Osterman Studio
- http://collodion-art.blogspot.com/2011/07/silver-bath-maintenance.html (Alex Timmermans)
- My first post about boiling and sorting pH of silver-bath LINK

An ambrotype of my daughter Lučka and her imaginary horse and very real dogs.

An ambrotype of my daughter Lučka and her imaginary horse and very real dogs.

An ambrotype of my daughter Lučka and her imaginary horse and very real dogs.

An ambrotype of my daughter Lučka and her imaginary horse and very real dogs.

Monetizing wet plate collodion process

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A toned salt print from a wet plate collodion negative.

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As you can imagine this wet plate process is not cheap and as a professional photographer I need and want to make a living with wet plate collodion process. I’m presenting two commercial projects in which I find great potential and as always want to share with you.

In collaboration with Gallery Fotografija from Ljubljana I was assigned to make a business gift for Riko company. I photographed Škrabčeva domačija museum in wet plate collodion glass negative and made salt print, toned with gold chloride. It is awesome and I’ve sold it to Riko. From the print we’ve made an edition of 300 inkjet prints on hahnemuele photorag paper and presented in a folder as you see it. The inkjet printing, the presentation and the folder was designed and made by Luminus company.

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Second assignment came from a known Slovenian curator. She hired me to photograph the house of her father in law. I’ve made 5×7″ wet plate collodion ambrotype. An interesting detail is that the house stands in the Puhar street in Ljubljana. Janez Puhar was an inventor who invented photography on glass in year 1843. Unfortunately nobody replicated the porcess after his death. Anyway the gift was a total success.

If you want to hire me to make on-location photograph of you or your house or do whatever in wet plate collodion process, I charge 150 EUR for the first plate and next plates are 30 EUR each. Email me for inquiry.

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