TOPSHIT PHOTOGRAPHY blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Society and Culture

Announcing probably my best exhibition opening

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Ostal si del te pokrajine...

“A cyanotype print from a wet plate collodion negative format 10×12" (25x30cm). Print was toned with tanin from green tea. Part of the series "You remained a part of the landscape, it's beauties and it's pain", a hommage to a painter Božidar Jakac. A cyanotype print from a wet plate collodion negative format 10×12″ (25x30cm). Print was toned with tanin from green tea. Part of the series “You remained a part of the landscape, it’s beauties and it’s pain”, a hommage to a painter Božidar Jakac.

On Tuesday I’m opening an exhibition that will probably be my best show until now. In November I was invited to have a show in Gallery Krka in Novo mesto and I thought I’ll have enough time to do nice wet plate collodion plates until the end of April, but winter was lasting until day before yesterday and I was forced to make wetplate images in harsh conditions. I had an extensive help from my mentor Miša Keskenović and Mark Osterman, the world authority in alternative processes. Let me quote Mark Osterman: “Remember that no photographer in their right mind would have been making images in that severe cold in the old days..so you are doing ok. :-)”. Topshit compliment indeed!

OK, I had a date of the opening of the show. I knew I wanted to do landscape photography from the beginning, which was not the smartest decision in winter time, but I also knew I don’t want to go for usual mainstream aesthetic, let’s call it national geographic kind of aesthetic or even Ansel Adams aesthetic if you want. I mention Ansel Adams, because he’s a huge influence to me, but I live in different times, I don’t want, can not and I’m not competent enough to replicate his perfection of his art. On other hand I also didn’t want to make shitty collodion plates, that would later be scanned and digitally fixed, printed as inkjets and call it an Art, that’s for sure! I mentioned before how I got inspired to do wet plate collodion process on the exhibition by Sally Mann in London’s Photographer’s Gallery. In her images I saw a huge potential to be explored, a huge vain of gold to be dig, so I was aiming for technical brilliance, but to somehow capture enchanting beauty of Sally Mann’s work. Mission imposible, I know.

Second resolution was, that I need to dig in art history and grow roots deep down there. One of my first tintype landscapes was of frozen river Krka at -17C in year 20012. Last time that river Krka got frozen it was some 85 years ago and at the time young painter Božidar Jakac painted the scene that astonished me as a child. Jakac later became a renown painter in Yugoslavia. I want to make a hommage to his work.

The title of the exhibition is “You remained a part of the landscape, it’s beauties and it’s pain”, that’s a verse of Tone Pavček engraved on his grave.

I’ll make a video podcast about my show, but let me share an image from the show, illustrating what I wrote above. It’s a cyanotype print from a wet plate collodion negative format 10×12″ (25x30cm). Print was toned with tanin from green tea. I took this image like 100 meters from my house and left my dog to guard the camera :-) Because it was a huge contrast between dark trees and white snow, I dodged the plate while exposing. The exposure was 6 minutes at aperture f/16 and 2,5 minutes I was holding a black velvet in front of the lens. Of course I was moving the velvet so it’s not visible. I used Vageeswari 10×12″ camera with a Rodenstock bistagmat lens from year about 1907 and it covers format 18×24 cm, but I wanted to have vignetting effect, so I put it on a camera format 25x30cm (10×12″).

See you on Tuesday 23.4.2013 in Gallery Krka, upravna stavba Krka d.d., Novo mesto, Slovenia, EU, at 19.00.

A portrait of a writer Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting)

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Two weeks ago I was commissioned by Mladina weekly to do the portrait of a writer Irvine Welsh, a Scottish novelist, playwright and short story writer. He is recognised for his novel Trainspotting. For the whole interview a termin of 30 minutes was reserved, which with other words mean, not time for photographer. I’ve stole 30 seconds for the portrait in the chair, before the interview and the rest was shot during interview. I used medium twin-lens camera Mamiya C330 and EFKE 100 film (I should use ISO 400, I know…). I’ve done also portraits on digital camera, just as a back-up, but those portraits were so boring, I’ll not waste Internet’s space with them. The concept of those portraits was the following. I took a straight normal portrait, I took all classic portraits that are usually done during interviews, then I said OK, let’s make few portraits that will smell like Trainspotting. What do you think?

Two outdoor ambrotypes in 35 min

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Kodak Folding Brownie 3A, f/64, t= 8s. Check solarization effect on the sky. So cool!

Kodak Folding Brownie 3A, f/64, t= 8s. Check solarization effect on the sky. So cool!

Kodak Folding Brownie 3A, f/64, t= 8s

Kodak Folding Brownie 3A, f/64, t= 8s

Today I was driving from work through a forrest with beautiful light! True fairy tale scene. I got home, pick up my wetplate stuff that was still packed from yesterday and I head back. I’ve done two ambrotypes (or winter ambroice) plates in 35 minutes and the time start counting from stepping out of a car, setting everything up until sitting back and driving away with two plates. I’m experimenting how fast can I work, how much time and preparations do I need. I love it. Very relaxing, very spontaneous!

We have so much snow, it's hard to park a car, so this is today's workplace.

We have so much snow, it’s hard to park a car, so this was mine today’s workplace.

Unfortunately the sun lost it's power after my plate was ready.

Unfortunately the sun lost it’s power after my plate was ready.

Wet Plate Collodion project on current recession

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short 4 minute video.


longer version 14 minutes.
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Ladies and Gentleman, let me introduce my new project, Great Depression 1912-13! I have been thinking for a long time to make a project that would incorporate wet plate collodion technique beyond the technological and aesthetic fascination. I wanted to make a concept where wetplate process would be a foundation of the concept, not a picture effect in the sense “geee, that looks so cool…”

And this is it. Project Great Depression 1912-13 is a documentary photography project where in wet plate technique I’m documenting state of a bankrupt companies with an emphasize on things that people left behind after they have been working there for decades.

Why the title Great Depression 1912-13? My aim is to make a picture series that would look old, ancient, as a document of an event that happened long, long time ago. I want that viewers will get the feeling that this sort of events happened like hundred years ago and since then society has learned the lesson and this sort of things can not happen to us, to a modern man in 21st Century.

The old bellow camera and wet plate technique is perfect to embed in pictures emotional detachment from the event. To prove my point, just think how great does it look a mugshot of Lewis Powel, the Lincon’s assassin photographed by Alexander Gardner and compare it to a contemporary mugshot of a murderer. It’s not (solely) the photographical technique that makes you feel different looking at a contemporary mug shot in comparison to a historical mugshot, it’s the knowing that murderer from a 19th Century mugshot is harmless, whereas a mugshot of a contemporary murderer is scary, since you can easily imagine that it could hurt you.

Of course in my picture series Great Recession 1912-13 I’m not hiding that this pictures are contemporary, just the opposite. I’m emphasizing the tension between the title and aesthetic elements on one side and documentary features on the other side.

I started the project in company Novoles that is about 500 meters from where I grew up. For me it’s important to start small, local and now I want to go to photograph larger stories. I have a wish list of international companies that I want to photograph, like the airport of Ciudad Real in Spain and of course Kodak company in Rochester, NY.

Let me finish with an anecdote. I’ve been photographing the entrance of Novoles and although I liked my first plate, it was full of mistakes. I’ve been working for another hour to make three technical nearly perfect photographs, but then I picked the first one. It’s perfect just as unperfected it is! And that happened to me many times!

Large images you can see on my site www.borutpeterlin.com

Great Depression 1912-13Great Depression 1912-13

Great Depression 1912-1320121201_7977

Two good things about recession & Art

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My first 10×12″ wet plate collodion taken with Vageswari camera and lens Voigtlander 300mm f/4,5.

I’m working really hard these months. I know that December will be more easy going and that January will be dead month in commercial work, so I work literally triple jobs. Anyhow, I still take an hour here and there and make something for myself! I finally made my first 10×12″ (25x30cm) plate! It’s not that difficult at all! Actually it’s easier because a dust dot looks really really tiny, comparing to the same size dot on a 4×5″ plate. I’m really happy, a step forward! Actually this wetplate was a birthday gift from me to myself. I know… weird…

This are hard times if you want to make a living from art. I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed that nobody buys my art this days. I got frustrated, but then I realized that if nobody will buy my art and I need to fund it from my own pocket, I can make the art that I like and don’t care what others think! Ha, that’s really liberating. I thought I don’t care what others feel about my art, but that can’t be true, if I got frustrated because my art-work wasn’t funding it’s self. Nevertheless when I do commercial work I feel a strong motif, because I know I will fund my art with this commercial work!

Another good thing is also that I can forget big production costs and once again I can afford without a shame to be modest again! I mean few of my shows in London’s Host Gallery (link) and in Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana (link), costed a fortune and since I set the benchmark of presentation on quite a high level I got frustrated because I couldn’t afford to exhibit anymore!

Well now recession is here and I feel liberated! I don’t feel embarrassed anymore that I don’t have 2x3meters lambda prints mounted on dibond aluminum boards! I just blame it on the recession and not on my art-career failure, thank you very much!

I’ve made this print as a gift for my aunt. I’m a bit rusty, but I still can do a good print.

Homage to Paul Graham

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Paul Graham at the workshop in Fabrica in year 2000

Last week I was on a vacation and I’ve read a book review of newest project by Paul Graham at Aphotoeditor by Robert Haggart. I’ve first encountered Paul Graham’s work at an exhibition at Month of Photography in Bratislava, year 1994. It was an exhibition of New British Documentary Photography. When I was in Fabrica, Benetton’s communication research centre, year 2000, he had a two days workshop there. Until then I didn’t fancy his aesthetic, but I understood his topics and I loved his early works especially Beyond Caring and Troubled Land. His work you don’t understand on a first glance, it took me a while of reading and contemplation to get familiar with the idea that war photography can be done with medium format camera from far and it’s OK, that your pictures aren’t good enough because you’re not close enough.

While we had a workshop together he asked from us to go out and make pictures, that we wouldn’t otherwise, we were asked to make mistakes, rigorous technical and compositional mistakes. We went out and each of us shot a roll of film and I took it as a joke, throwing camera in the air and taking pictures with a timer on and of course nobody took an effort to look trough a viewfinder. And accordingly that’s how our pictures look like, a one big mess! Paul came along and start shuffling pictures and out of this mess of unsharp, blurry, over&under exposed pictures made a series that actually looked really cool! Then he was talking about possible connotations that this kind of aesthetic could be applied to. I was astonished! What a good workshop!

So when I read the book review that I’ve mentioned before I clicked through the book and as always it’s not on a first ball as we say it, but as all Graham’s projects it takes some time to get familiar with his new “invention” in photography. To be honest my belief was that diptychs, triptychs and other typtichs are for photographers who can not make a good picture, then they do some distracting maneuvers with juxtaposing several images together. In 99% it’s like that, if you ask me, or even more if the theme of the series is dealing with identity of a photographer (grow up!).

But, I’m also great fan of Duane Michals and his way of transcending an image with a sequence and Graham’s diptychs are sharing a some sort of rhythm that I like. Furthermore this is actually a street photography, a contemporary modern version street photography, that I adore. Robert Haagart wrote:

“But, inch by inch, I realized that the book’s locale is strictly allegorical. It could have been London, or Barcelona, or San Francisco, or almost any city on Earth. The title of the book is not “NYC,” it’s “The Present.” Mr. Graham is asking us to take him at his word, and look beyond the obvious.”

At the moment I was reading this I was at a vacation at the sea site in Nerezine, Croatia, so I wondered if it could have been NY, London, Barcelona, why not Nerezine as well? I took my camera and the very next day I’ve made a jackpot of an image that I’m publishing bellow. I’m continuing with the mining the concept…


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Family summer time in 6×6 format

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Few days before with my family we left for summer vacation to a seaside I’ve bought a “new” camera Mamiya C330, so I was excited to try it out. I never liked the square format, as a student and as a young professional, but I guess it’s because square format was a trade mark of Hasselblad, that I couldn’t afford :-)

I looked at my bookshelf, thinking who is a master of square format photography. My first pick was Mary Ellen Mark and her book Indian Circus, then I checked The Hasselblad Masters awards. The Hasselblad awards didn’t inspire me (I can do better), but with Mary Ellen Mark I found some good clues how to deal with the square format.

I was thinking… Square is a stable, boring format and to make the image interesting I must brake this stableness with composition. My first rule was to fill the image with the subject all the way to the borders and even across the border. That was the idea for the picture published above and on the left side. OK, I admit, I didn’t discover America, but playing with concepts and aesthetics is inevitably leading us to new “discoveries” as I call personal micro revelations :-)

Second inspiration was the book On Photography by Susan Sontag. I’ve read it twice, but that was some time ago, so why not follow the Atheism 2.0 commandment to repeat the lessons over and over again. It’s the basis of every religion so it must make sense. While reading Sontag’s words on how photography is surreal, the most appropriate medium for modernistic art, I understood everything. World make sense if viewed through a lens of a camera.

Last but not least, this adventure back to black and white analog photography is bringing good old memories from Prague’s Famu Academy where I earned my BA in photography. I know I’m repeating some lessons from history of photography, but I don’t do it because of the love towards the history, but I’m doing it for the love of photography and to the love to my family. More of my Family Album project you can see on my site www.borutpeterlin.com.This is not the end result it’s just warming up! I’m inspired as Apollo 11 rocket!

PS: Under comment leave a link to a site of a photographer who work in an inventive way with a square medium format camera. I want to grasp as much info as I can.

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Wet Plate Collodion portraits

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Tilen by the pool.

This portrait I’ve done yesterday. I’m still not satisfied with the quality of ambrotypes I’m getting, but this one is quite good. Actually I cheated a little and I add some blacks and some contrast – digitally :-( But I didn’t altered the image. It’s sort of “I smoked pot but I didn’t inhale” excuse, I know. Anyhow today I managed to gather my large format portraits and wet plate collodion portraits of my family, so if you’re interested please take a look on my site. LINK. This series A Family Album is a series about love. Towards photography and towards people. It doesn’t pretend it will change the world, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it will. Depends on a viewer. It’s exhibited in Frančiškanski samostan as a part of Fotopub festival. Fotopub starts this Monday, don’t miss lectures and exhibitions, if you’ll not participate at the workshop!


New creative portrait, Lucija Stepančič

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Lucija Stepančič, a painter and a writer
Photo: Darko Sintič,
Koncept and post-process: Borut Peterlin

Last week I had super fever with body temperature up to 39,6C and I couldn’t go to Ljubljana and make a portrait for Mladina. I asked a student of mine Darko Sintič to take a portrait and I explained him what I need. I took his images and chop them into pieces and polaroids from them. I used poladroid software. After I finished with post-process I was in a state of high fever dreaming whole night this images. I realized I should use dropshadow on polaroids and probably I should use some sort of texture for background. I wasn’t really sure if it’s OK, but now, with time distance I’m satisfied with the result. Ladies and Gentleman, Lucija Stepančič, a painter and a writer.

PS: I’m healthy now. Today I’ve carefully jogged few kilometers and I’m great. Great feeling, great energy!

Govor veleposlanika ZDA Joseph Mussomeli, Križanke, Ljubljana, 3.7.2012,

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Joseph A. Mussomeli, US Ambassador to Slovenia.

Few hours ago I was photographing a news event, U.S. Independence Day Celebration in Ljubljana, where U.S. Ambassador to Slovenia Joseph Mussomeli gave a speech that should echo widely. Slovenia is ruled by politicians that are obsessed with ideological differences. They are very successful in their intention to divide Slovenian nation on those who are “with us” and those who are “against us”. That is why this speech of ambassador Mussomeli touched me deeply as a voice of reason, so I’m passing it on.

HERE is a link to the scan of the speech, so you can read it.

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Pred nekaj urami sem fotografiral dogodek praznovanja obletnice ameriške neodvisnosti, kjer je imel veleposlanik ZDA, Joseph Mussomeli, govor, ki mora odmevati. V teh časih, ko Sloveniji vladajo politične elite, ki so obsedene z ideološkim pravdanjem in so zelo uspešne v razdvajanju ljudi na ta bele in ta rdeče, je prav, da si lahko v miru preberemo to sporočilo in se zamislimo. Ta govor sem dojel kot glas razuma, ki se me je dotaknil, tako ga posredujem naprej.

TUKAJ je povezava na slovenski prevod govora.

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Written by Borut Peterlin

3 July, 2012 at 23:12

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