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

Archive for the ‘Wet Plate Collodion’ 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

Headrest for sale

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Dear readers,
more then a year ago, I’ve ordered a headrest from a master blacksmith, Miha Krištof and he made an astonishing product. In the post from December 2012, I even published links of the bleuprints that I gave to the blacksmith with intention that everybody can take this blue print to a local craftsman and order a headrest. I was receiving several requests if I can order one more headrest, but the blacksmith was clear that if I want to make a new order, I need to order four at the same time. It happened that few months ago I did received three orders at about the same time and I did order four more headrests. So for now, I’m selling one headrest and gathering orders for more headrests. After I submit the order, it takes about a month time that blacksmith finishes his masterpiece. So the price for the headrest is 500 EUR, free shipping. If you’re interested to become a keeper of one of this sturdy headrest for a century or so, please send me a private mail on

I’m also coming to European Collodion Weekend so I can bring you one. Or two. Month of May is not that far and remember that it takes a month to make it.

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).

For a wetplate workshop dial B5!

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An ambrotype by Benjamin Lind

An ambrotype by Benjamin Lind

Last few months people from all over Europe are coming to the small town of Slovenia, to my home, to learn alternative photography techniques. Pardon my French, but I’m really proud on that!

Like in October Benjamin Lind from Switzerland was here for a weekend basic wetplate workshop. Last weekend Davide Nesti and Giuseppe Toffoli from Italy were here. They are experienced wetplaters and they were interested in wet plate collodion NEGATIVE, salt print, albumen print and silver gelatin printing from a wet plate collodion negative. Really too much program for two days and we did struggle with some troubleshooting, but on the end we achieved goals. I also learn one thing from the workshop. Davide had one nice camera, but the plate holder was fogging like english morning. I really didn’t believe that the plate holder can be used for wet plate photography, but then Giuseppe took my clear acrylic varnish and sprayed all parts that were in touch with a wet plate and the next day fog was totally gone. I couldn’t believe my eyes! One day fog on fog, the next – clear plates…

Robert Gojević, editor in chief of Blur magazine hired me to do a private workshop in Zagreb in his flat. We started perfectly following the Collodion manual of Mark Osterman that is included in the price of my workshop, but then when finally a time came for a plate, I got just fog. Robert was looking at me suspiciously, but I said, no worries, in wet plate process I follow one rule. If the first plate succeed, that’s luck, if the second plate does not succeed, that’s bad luck, only the third plate is bound to succeed if there is bad luck or good luck! And that’s what it happened. After troubleshooting I’ve recalibrated developer for hot and dry environment (his flat) and the third plate was (almost) perfect.

This week also Markele Zid, a photography student from Spain came to Dolenjske Toplice to become my assistant for three months. He hired a flat and we are working every day. He witnessed the weekend workshop and yesterday’s workshop with Robert and today I said, just give it a try in wetplate process by yourself. I didn’t even put my gloves on, he was doing everything by himself, I just inspect it over his shoulder. His first plate was so perfect I couldn’t believe! He must have some German genes in his blood, that’s the only explanation! The first plate had a yellow “coffee & cream” color cast but because, if I use words of Mark Osterman, in Europe we prefer more silverish, neutral gray kind of look, I tweaked the developer with KNa and nitric acid for more neutral silver tone and his second plate was as you can see. More about Markele, the spanish president, later, we’re planning to make many topshit videos.

I’m publishing pics from the workshop with captions and you be the judge if the workshops were successful. If you are interested in individual workshop on alternative techniques, please send me an email. It’s all inclusive workshop with sleeping, food and material, since we work from 9am to midnight! We even eat standing! Lunch time is when gloves tear and then you need new pair, this is the moment when lunch is served because that’s the only good and proper time to eat with new pair of gloves!

Last but not least in a month time I have an exhibition in Helsinki and also there I’ll be giving a private crash course on wetplate collodion negative and salt printing. I have a feeling that at this year’s European Collodion Weekend, NEGATIVE wet plate collodion and the salt print process with be the hip thing :-)

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!


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