Wet Plate problems with un-pure AgNO3
Recently I’ve bought 200g of AgNO3 on ebay and on Saturday everything worked fine, then I mixed new solution and added to the old solution and suddenly I couldn’t make a decent picture! On Sunday I was making a portrait of an artist Maja Smrekar, who mixed her genome with an enzyme that is making yoghurt and my idea was to make a portrait of her as a scientist / alchemist. Perfect motif in a wet plate collodion technique, but I was getting only fog! Luckily I still know how to shoot digital :-)
On the bottom of this post there is a test plate and clearly it’s a silver bath problem. I was pounding my head what could go wrong and I was testing everything, although I knew it’s a silver bath issue. On Friday I had a commission to do a family wet plate portrait and I’ve told them I could do it only on film and digital, but on Friday I’ve woke up at 3:30 am with an idea to make the last attempt in saving my poor wet plate soul. I’ve put my AgNO3 solution on a cooker and boiled it, so 80% of the solution would evaporate. I woke up at 6am and 99% of solution evaporated. I wondered if I ruined the solution, but after adding new fresh distilled water and filter it, everything was working fine. I was starting to get lovely clean plates again and I’ve done the commission also with wet plate technique.
After I published the experience on FB, the legend of 19th Century photography techniques, Mark Osterman of Eastman Kodak museum warn me and I’m passing his words: “Be careful boiling down to dry crystals. They are difficult to dissolve and if there is any trace of ammonia you’ll have fulminate of silver…. a percussive explosive. :-0”