TOPSHIT PHOTOGRAPHY blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Portrait Photography

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!!

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 borutpeterlin@gmail.com

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.

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!

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

A photography project on fears and delights being a parent

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Dear topshit readers,
I’m awfully proud on the following book I’ve made. I’ve joined an excellent workshop with Klavdij Sluban. Klavdij Sluban is an extraordinary photographer and won so many prestigious photography awards. One of the most important award was certainly European Publishers Award 2009 and this year he was one of the juror for Leica Award 2013. It’s fortunate for us that his parents were Slovenians and although he was born in Paris, he spend his childhood in Slovenia, so he speaks fluently Slovenian (among other half a dozen languages). He made a generous offer to make a whole year lasting workshop and we would meet six weekends across the whole year. His only condition was not to advertise the workshop internationally, but invite only Slovenian photographers. Last week we had an opening of exhibition as the final stage of our workshop.

The presentation of my art zine and a single photograph at Gallery Simulaker, Novo mesto, Slovenia

The presentation of my art zine and a single photograph at Gallery Simulaker, Novo mesto, Slovenia

The book I’m presenting is a fruit of collaboration at the workshop. I’ve learned hugely by just watching Klavdij going through images, picking one, the other, changing the order, putting it back on the pile and so on. We called it Sluban’s magic, because although sometimes images that were on the table were not impressive at all, but his selection of just say 8 images and juxtapositioning them in certain order, did made a huge difference. You can not understand if you don’t witness it. I’ve been at workshops with many many famous photographers, from Martin Parr, Duane Michals, Joel Peter Witkin and many others, but I haven’t seen anything like it. I knew from our first meeting that all I need to learn at the workshop is to tap on his frequency of thinking and the result is evident here in this book. Mark Osterman gave me a great comment. He loved that I used different camera formats (6×6, 4×5″, 8×10″) and also different processes (b&w film, wet plate collodion – ambrotype and wet plate negative) and I blended them all together in a book almost seamlessly. That’s Sluban’s magic, I tell you!

As I’m describing in the video I was aware that the story about the most beautiful children in the world is not enough. I shaped my concept around my fears and delights of being a parent. When I was a child, ten years old, I burned myself with a gasoline and almost died. When I became a parent I experienced fears for my children and one day I was strucked by a thought, what my parents had to go through at the time of my accident!

The book is on ebay (LINK) if you want a copy. If you want a print as well, I’ve just put two prints on ebay and link is listed below.

A link to the gallery of images on my website.

The book on ebay.

The print no.1 listed on ebay.

Print no.6 listed on ebay.

Individual topshit workshop

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Benjamin and B5 an individual workshop at Josip Pelikan Skylight Studio

Benjamin and B5 an individual workshop at Josip Pelikan Skylight Studio

Benjamin saw my videos on youtube and decided to learn wet plate collodion process so he drove from Switzerland for an individual workshop with me. It was great three days. We were doing basic wet plate collodion ambrotypes, wet plate collodion negatives, salt printing and then for fun we were doing also collodion transfer to paper and to his sketch book cover. Mark Osterman from George Eastman House museum explained that the name for this transfers is actually Pannotype. We were mixing and testing different collodions, silver baths with different pH, different developers, changing exposure with development times. The result of that kind of workshop torture is a surprising finding that a plate that was illuminated by 30% less could look brighter if developed with less developer in a perfect way.

My way of teaching is to use one motif and keep on photographing it focusing on one aspect of the process. Most demanding part of the workshop was wet plate negative. I’ve mixed new negative collodion, raised pH of silverbath to 4.9pH and with this I raised sensibility of collodion process, so I could make a portrait of Benjamin in wet plate collodion negative with f/11, t=4s. I portrayed him outdoor in shadow. Then we redeveloped the negative and we’ve made a salt print from it. Fun weekend!

If you want to know more about my workshops click on the LINK to my site. Let me just add that with my workshop you get also Mark Osterman’s Collodion manual. I was thinking to write my own instructions (just like everyone else who have 5 min of free time :-) ), but I’ve decided I’ll rather buy bunch of the best collodion manuals and include them in my workshop offer.

Two book covers by your favourite topshit photographer

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Here are two book covers I’ve done last month. OK, the philosopher Slavoj Žižek I photographed in 2008 (the blog post), but Danish publisher Samfunds Letteratur recently bought my portrait of Slavoj for the cover of Den nyttige idiot book.

Založba Goga hired me to make a cover of the newest book of rewarded writer Tadej Golob. I had completely open hands. The story is about a recreational boxer that is beaten by life, but he refuse and does not fall. It’s not a book about a champion, it’s a book about a fighter who fights in a ring called everyday life.

My concept for the cover was it has to look raw. Not brutal, but raw. Very raw. I do Muay Thai (Thai Boxing) and I have two pairs of boxing gloves, but mine are modern King boxing gloves, so it took me a while to find one that fited my idea. Of course I’ve done the cover in wet plate collodion technique with an old petzval lens on 4×5″ format to achieve the beautiful rawness.

With the same concept I’ve made the portrait of a writer Tadej Golob.

A cover page of a book Ali boma ye by a writer Tadej Golob, published by Založba Goga

A cover page of a book Ali boma ye by a writer Tadej Golob, published by Založba Goga


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A cover of a book of a philosopher Slavoj Žižek by publishing house Samfunds Letteratur

A cover of a book of a philosopher Slavoj Žižek by publishing house Samfunds Letteratur

B5 tour de Switzerland & Deutschland

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Last week it was a topshit week. Sasha Huber and Petri Saarikko are my dear friends from Fabrica / Benetton times. Sasha was invited to prepare an exhibition in Eisenwerk – Frauenfeld. I’ll talk more about the exhibition after the opening, but I can say that an important part of the exhibition will include also ambrotypes. Sasha commissioned me to make ambrotype portraits illustrating a certain aspect of her work. We were really working hard and I think we’ve done great work. Here are few plates that I’ve done as a test.

The theme for this post is actually how inspired I got in those short days that we worked together and we lived art. We discussed so many projects. Petri, for instance, founded Kallio Kunsthalle, gallery of contemporary art in Helsinki. He presented me all the exhibitions he curated, concepts, views, tools, impressions, etc… We shared our views on art that we do, that others do, contemporary art that inspire us, old projects, trends, currents and our plans for the future. Oh, very sprackling conversation/s…

On Sunday we went to Fotomuseum Winterthur where we saw an exhibition by Lewis Hine. I’ve met there with a fellow wetplater Peter Michels and on Moday I drove also to Nurnberg to visit another wetplater Peter Kunz. It was really cool to see his amazing studio! And you know where’s located? In former facility of Quelle factory. I promised to come back and do some plates for my exhibition Great Depression 1912-13. Peter has really amazing studio with topshit equipment. I’m attaching some behind the scene images.

On the way back I left Switzerland at 10am came to Nurnberg at 15.00 hang around with peter for couple of hours and at 19.00 I took my drive back home (690km) and arrived at 6:30 am. Altogether there and back I drove 1950 km. I drove whole night back inspired of all the art I consumed, shared and created…

Twist Wet Plate Collodion process at 30 °C

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A week ago the Fotopub Festival finished. I was a founder of the festival in 2001 and was running the show for seven years and today I’m proud to say that the level is so high I gladly enrol as a participant to one of the workshops. This year I enrolled in a workshop with Diana Lui and I was photographing river beaches in wet plate collodion. Heat is a nightmare for wet plate collodion process, but I rethought the process, made few tests and here we go, I was doing wet plate collodion process at 30°C almost business as usual at 20°C.

I’ve made several changes to the process.
1) I lowered the pH of silver nitrate bath from 4pH to 2.3pH by adding few drops of nitric acid into it (about 3 drops per 500ml should be enough, but check yourself)
2) I added more alcohol in my collodion mixture. I have alcohol on the spot and if I see it’s drying too fast I add some more solvent.
3) To my usual developer I added 25% of water and added 5 drops of nitric acid per 100ml of developer. I could add also 5gr of sugar per 100ml, but I didn’t have to.
4) when sensitizing plate in silver bath I reduced the time from 3 minutes to only 2 minutes. Mark Osterman is emphasizing that the sensibilization should be done by observation and not by time, but on the field I observe only the first plate then I do it by time. You can see when a plate is ready for exposure. If you leave it too long in the heat, you will get too much silver on your plate that will become fog during development.
5) I used water as my stop bath, but I’ve added a spoon of table salt to a liter of water. Salt will react with silver and will stop the development process immediately. It’s important to stop development fast if you work without running water and in the heat.

And that’s basically it. If the plate is perfectly exposed it should be developed for 20 seconds. I’ve learned this from Mark Osterman’s manual where he explains in details what does what in the process. I rethought and made lots of tests, wrote him a lot of questions and on the end I came up with results that are satisfying. Last but not least I owe Miša Keskenović lost of gratitude for all the knowledge he shared with me.

Have you seen my video about wet plate collodion at 0°C? HERE is the link. The same logic is behind, only fashion changes. When you understand the process you adjust the process freely to the conditions. Twist and shout the process out!

PS: This will be a supplement to my exhibition on 5.9.2013 in KKC, Dolenjske Toplice, Slovenia.
PPS: All those five steps aren’t probably necessary to deal with heat. Step number 1 makes about 60% of the effect I reckon, but with it you lose at least 2 f stops of sensibility of your wet plate collodion plate.

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