TOPSHIT PHOTOGRAPHY blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘wet plate collodion

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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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

Contemporary art project in wet plate collodion and salt print process

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Dear topshit readers,
Half a year ago I’ve done an experiment, I’ve sold a print on ebay, as an auction starting from $0.99 USD and after 5 days it was sold for $111 USD (LINK). Few weeks later an auction for the second print won $182 USD (LINK). These two sales were just a test to see how ebay works and what could be done and at what prices a print could be sold. I was very happy to see that it does work. Many people congratulated me for the courage to expose my work full monty to ebay auction, but I was also a target of a critic that the price my prints won, were ridiculous.

What I couldn’t explain to the critics is that it’s not so much about the money, it’s more an experiment how to sell art. I was invited to give a TEDx speech in Ljubljana where I’ll talk to 600 people live and few thousands on-line.

Not to mention the theme how to sell art is the mission impossible here in this corner of the world! I live in Slovenia, that’s the only country in EU (beside Cyprus) that still have recession, (that’s -3% recession!!!) and an art market is totally and utterly DEAD. The most prominent artists are dependent on grants, but I’ve decided to try something different.

I’ve explained everything in the video, I just want to add that the key element of the project is to give all my aces out of my sleeve. The print I’ve done and the way it’s presented is the best way I can. I am not able to do it any better. I wasn’t sparing any money. When I was cutting the glass negative my hands shook. They really did. I couldn’t believe it!

Oh, one more thing. Even though I was satisfied with my first ebay sales I pulled a handle brake and stopped selling my prints. I hit a question that I couldn’t answer. Why would someone buy a print from me for 1000 EUR, if I’m actioning my prints on ebay, starting with $0.99 USD? It took me literally two months to find an answer to that. And it goes like this. I need to make the ebay adventure as an art project by itself. I need to find an unique motif and a concept that will be solely devoted to the ebay auction experiment and by doing that I will protect my other work to be affected by the inflation of the price. I would never sold a print from lets say my best project Flower Power for less than 700 EUR. (which I did to a Dutch collector, long, long time ago…)

HERE is the LINK to the ebay listing. It will end Nov 27, 2013 11:23:04 PST.

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…

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.

The Great Depression, a wet plate collodion documentary project by Borut Peterlin

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I’m inviting you to the opening of my exhibition The Great Depression. The opening will happen on 4th of October 2013 in Gallery Photon in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

With the project I’m trying to document the state of bankrupt companies with emphasis on the things that workers left behind. I’m known as a portrait photographer and although this time there are no people on my images, the human presence is very evident. I hope you will enjoy the video and hope to see you at the opening!

Dearest readers, one more thing. This is the 1000th blog post on my blog! I’ve been blogging since September 2006 and here we are at the 1000th post! A lot of things changed in this time and I’m happy I was blogging about it. I was thinking hard how to mark this anniversary. Due to the occasion, let’s call this week an artist to artist week. If you send me something that you’ve done I’ll send you back something that I’ve done. It’ll probably be a gelatin print, but who knows… If you make a good marmalade, I’ll exchange a print for a jar of marmalade. Or for whatever, just please keep in mind that the offer stands only for a week, so if you are really up for “Creation 4 Creation” deal, please send me before 7th of October 2013 on the address Cviblje 40, 8350 Dolenjske Toplice, Slovenia, EU. And don’t forget to write your address ;-)

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…

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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