Photography, Fine Art, Wet Plate Collodion, Alternative photography

A new creative wet plate portrait – Milan Erič

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milan erič, an illustrator and painter portrayed by

This is my new portrait for Mladina weekly. Milan Erič is a painter, an illustrator and author of animated feature film. I wanted to make his portrait in wet plate collodion technique, but every night before I have a wet plate portrait on a location, I have have a bad sleep. I can’t get rid questions like where will I work, who will complain about it, where will I get water, will there be a drain to waste used water and developer, will there be enough light, will the person being portrayed have enough patience and what if something will go wrong with chemistry? If everything goes well, I make a portrait in an hour and if it doesn’t… Several times I couldn’t make a wetplate portrait in the time frame or in a circumstances I was given and I had to make a digital portrait as an emergency solution.

This is one of more luxurious working place in front of toilet of Gallery p74. I know all toilets in downtown of Ljubljana and I will make a guide on toilets in Ljubljana for junkies.

We wet plate photographers are hard core stubborn oxen that will do just about everything for a good picture, but I was doing this for almost a year, almost every week and frankly I had enough of this suffer drive. The night before the portrait of Milan Erič, I couldn’t sleep more then few hours and I decided this is the end, the end of my collodion portraits in Mladina weekly! But while I was eating a breakfast I came to a good solution! I did the following.

With my ShenHao 4×5″ camera I portrayed him on a normal HP5 film. OK, it could be considered a normal film in this recession times, since it got expired in 1995. You know the book of Chase Jarvis, The best camera is the one that’s with you? Well I’m working on a book The best film is the one that you get for free!

My little ShenHao camera with Rodenstock 210mm, Linhof 135mm and Zeis 90mm lenses.

Film that got expired in September 1995 is not bad. It’s not perfect, but for who it is, good it is!

My “new” Durst 138s enlarger can blow up negatives up to 5×7″ that’s 13×18 cm in proper units.

I projected the negative on a wet plate holder with a sensitized plate.

The ambrotype in negative. I scanned it, then scratched it, then scanned it again. If you can see I removed the scratched line that goes around his head with the help of first scan.

This is the result it’ll be published in tomorrows issue of Mladina weekly. As you can see format of publication is different, so I retouched the edges of a glass plate.

Final summation. The complicated procedure of wet plate collodion process on location was starting to stressing me too much and steered most of my energy from conceptual creative process into logistic / chemical issues. I wanted to give up, until I figure out this solution. I mean it’s not an invention or something, many people are or were doing it. Now, when I don’t need to worry how and where to develop, I can devote more of my energy back to concept of the image and what is the message of it.
There are some draw backs. Collodion is sensitive to UV and blue light and not sensitive to red and orange, so the skin of Milan Erič would look completely different if I would portrayed him originally with collodion process. In principle I could skip film entirely and do the image with digital camera, but my personal resolution is that I will make the procedure as simple as I need it, but not simpler then that! (Einstein took that quote from me) I love how lenses for large format draw and I love their depth of field.

Hm… that makes me think. Do you want me to make a glass plate ambrotype from your digital file? I would charge you 50 EUR + shipping for a 5×7 plate. I can do bigger plates of course. Have you seen my new Durst enlarger? My contact.

Where was I? Anyhow, I’m not a traditionalist wet plate photographer. I embrace every tool there is to fulfill my vision in making of photographs. At the moment I’m in the period where I can see world only in collodion images and since I can not make a living from this kind of photography I try desperately to involve this noble analog process in my daily work as a professional photographer.

PS: I forgot to write that the whole procedure takes much more time then if I would shoot it originally on collodion, but it’s more reliant, which is what I need on assignment.

7 Responses

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  1. Oh, cool! And very well written, if I may add 🙂


    22 November, 2012 at 23:56

  2. Awesome work! Very interesting process too, thanks for sharing!
    Have a wonderful weekend!


    23 November, 2012 at 10:22

  3. Thank you Marie, Klemen
    I think I found a new excitement with this kind of analog manipulation of photography. At the moment I’m working on an even more crazy manipulation. you will see, but you can imagine it’s way down the rabbit hole…

    Borut Peterlin

    23 November, 2012 at 11:09

  4. […] insert the slide reproduction in an enlarger and expose a wetplate. Sort of what I was doing for a portrait of Milan Erič. Then I’ve read a post on Petapixel that my main man Tony Richards is photographing a […]

  5. Sounds great ! Is there any way to make a ‘contact’ on collodion glass plate from a 4×5 negative ?

    Christian Jacques

    28 April, 2013 at 13:11

  6. I wondered if this was possible – and I should have known you would have done it already! I have some more thoughts about this process. You could use colour film (slide film I guess?) so the negative plate has more correct tones. Or, maybe a blue filter would correct a B&W negative for this process? It wouldn’t fix the UV though…

    Dave Rendall

    5 March, 2014 at 23:11

  7. hello, im a photography student currently doing my final for a masters in Madrid, I want to use this technique to make some orotones, im having trouble finding exposure times on the enlarger for collodion plates, i’ve read that is critical the time between coating the plate and exposing it and if the exposure is too long then the plate will dry and ruin.. can u help me a bit thanks

    jose mosnalve

    21 September, 2016 at 19:17

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