TOPSHIT PHOTOGRAPHY blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘The Story Behind a Portrait

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

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.

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…

Portraying passion is back

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Sorry for not blogging for a while. You must understand me, I quit my job of photojournalist where I was working for almost 8 years and was working my ass off to provide income elsewhere. And proudly I must say I managed to find a job that is much better paid, so I’m sorted for next 12 months!

Nevertheless I miss weekly portraits assignments so if somebody is interested to be portrayed by my genius in the bottle, just rub my email address.

Few days ago I was playing around with negative wet plate process and I wanted to see if my month old albumen solution got bad and how does it reflect on the plate. It’s important to recognize an error and it’s pattern. Here are two results. I love them both. Not sure if because my daughters are on the pictures or do they have some attraction to you to?

Images that follow are cleaner. I was cleaning my plates with very diluted nitric acid and I doubt that there will be any effect, but it was. I got very clean plates. I also give it a try of Miša Keskenović receipt for a quickclear collodion. Miša started to modify a receipt from Eder and adjust it for quickclear usage. It is based on three salts, NH4I, CdI2 and CdBr2. It’s rich in iodides and very sharp, very contrasty, very thick. Actually it was too thick for this weather, so I got crepe lines. I love it :-) Obviously it’s not forgiving to work with the collodion, but it is rewarding when everything goes well. For more info read the description of an image.

Klemen Slakonja, wet plate portait

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Portrait taken on 4x5" camera with petzval lens, exposed on wet plate collodion plate. This is retouched version, I retouched his face from the film negative I've recorded.

Portrait taken on 4×5″ camera with petzval lens, exposed on wet plate collodion plate. This is retouched version, I retouched his face from the film negative I’ve recorded.

Klemen Slakonja is an actor and rising star of TV show business in Slovenia. Few weeks ago I had to make his portrait, but it was raining. I decided to do the portrait in wet plate collodion just the same. Under rain, no sweat! OK, it was just sprinkling rain, but on the end of the shoot I was all wet. I got used to that, actually. Wet wet plate photographer, why not! I arrived half an hour before the shoot, mix the developer and prepare first plate. We exposed it, but when I wanted to develop it I knock the glass beaker off the table and it crashed in front of us.

Klemen was kind enough to wait that I’ve mixed the developer again, but I didn’t filter it, i didn’t had time for that. Plate was fogged so his face wasn’t recognizable. I’ve repeat the portrait with the same camera, Linhof lens and I was exposing normal B&W film. At home I scanned the collodion plate, scanned the film negative and photoshoped that his face was recognizable. Lucky for me, I know all sorts of photography, so if I’m forced to, I use every possible tool to deliver a good portrait to a reader of Mladina weekly magazine. After all the stress, the picture looked fantastic in the printed magazine and it’s one of my favorites.

Perhaps you might wonder why have I portray Klemen as a cowboy. Let me quote Andy Warhol: “I don’t know.”

PS: In less then two hours an auction for my salt print is finishing on ebay. LINK.

My last creative portrait for Mladina weekly

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Zora Stančič, an artist

Zora Stančič, an artist

Today is an important day in my career. After almost eight years I finished my regular collaboration with Mladina weekly. I mean I will still be doing a cover here and there and some special issue, but the collaboration on weekly basis has ended. The main reason is that my work for Mladina involves travel expenses from my home to Ljubljana and back and when I started the job as photoeditor in year 2006, fuel was half the price. I resigned the desk job in 2011 (if I remember correctly. Maybe was 2010?) to work and earn my living as an active photographer. At the time I was desperate to recalibrate my career to go back to photography. I mean have I study photography in Prague, Italy, UK and payed for it a fortune, just to sit behind computer and edit images that I knew I could have done better? It was fun to ride the camera, but the travel expenses grew whereas photojournalistic salary is much lower then editor’s, so at the peak of recession I’ve realized it’s just not worth the money anymore.

That’s one out of the three reasons.

Second one is that I got in love with photography again, processes that were practiced in 19th Century, Wet Plate Collodion and Salt printing process to highlight just two. Intimately I feel this is the path that I need to take, but with day job in Ljubljana I just couldn’t find enough time to pursue the path.

Third reason was fear. I feared that I will finish my career at Mladina in some car accident. In 7,5 years on the road I avoided many accidents and witnessed many many more. Although I’m safe driver in about 18 years as a driver I had only one accident and even that wasn’t my fault! But still I was afraid this was destined to me. Now I finished the job and I’m so happy that I was wrong about that.

What’s next? The bad news is that I’ve jumped out of the plane without a parachute. I have no safe employee in my sight, that’s for sure. The good news is that I think I know how to fly. Well at least I should know! If who, then I should be the one to know how to earn a living from photography! I have many business ideas! One is about to be tested in 6h 26m 27s (Jun 27, 2013 15:25:38 PDT)! On ebay I’m auctioning a print. When I put this print on auction I didn’t know that week later I will finish this chapter of my life and it’s very symbolic that it’s ending today!

And now to the image above. Zora Stančič is very successful Slovenian artist recognized widely and she’s expressing herself mostly trough graphic arts. When I look back to my first creative portrait in Mladina weekly, that was Melita Zajc in year 2006, I look back with a content on the path I’ve taken and the work I’ve done.

Tomorrow’s a new day! I so much look forward!

Severa Gjurin portrayed in wet plate collodion technique

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Severa Gjurin portrayed in Wet Plate Collodion technique by Borut Peterlin

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Severa Gjurin portrayed in Wet Plate Collodion technique by Borut Peterlin

In today’s Mladina weekly my portrait of Severa Gjurin is published. Grega Cokan was assisting me and I’ve made a step test before Severa arrived. Expousure goes from 2 seconds strip to one minute epxposure strip.
PS: How much gay can a step test be? ha, ha…

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