TOPSHIT PHOTOGRAPHY blog

Photography, Fine Art, Wet Plate Collodion, Alternative photography

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Topshit photography journal 16th of June 2015

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Tomorrow is a big day. I’m almost finished with my preparations for Vienna Photo Book Festival . I’ve cashed in all my chips and now it’s time to go. I’m going to Vienna with a Land Rover, my old-timer. Today I’ve bought Hi-Lift Jack and I’ve sorted the bed in my Land Rover. As a huge fan of Top Gear, I’m planning to do Topshit Gear Special and I’m planning to record my trip as I do, with emphasis on photography and art. The book Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is my inspiration.

I’m not doing this just for the fun of it, but I’m celebrating a new milestone in my photography path. I finally reached the destination after four years of intensive work. Six years or so I’ve seen an exhibition of Sally Mann in London Photographer’s Gallery and I’ve decided there on the spot I want to learn this witchcraft of collodion. It took me more then a year to find Miša Keskenović, who introduced me into the craft and another year to have met Mark Osterman in person. At George Eastman House I’ve seen original albumen prints of Eadweard Muybridge, France Scully Osterman, Mark Osterman and many others. I knew that I want to make a project with it. Albumen print process is in principle very simple process, but if you want to have rich tonality with clear white highlights and deep blacks, it’s very difficult. On top of everything I see my future artwork only in wet plate negative, that is much more difficult to do, then ambrotypes or tintypes.

Practitioners of wet plate collodion process know that the most difficult thing of all is the workflow. It’s one thing to make a good plate (either positive or negative) and it’s completely another thing to be able to do it in whatever situation it is. I bought the Land Rover so I could perfect my workflow and master the process so well that it becomes intuitive and I can focus on the photography itself not thinking on the process.

In the road I’m taking I’m celebrating that. I’m celebrating the past four years of learning and tackling the process and now I feel the process is very natural to me, I’m relaxed and I have plenty of energy to focus on the aesthetic and art. In this road I’m celebrating the fact that I’m making prints that are the best prints I’ve done. I love them so much, I can’t stop looking at them. I know I’ve reached the milestone of learning the craft. Now I can fully focus on my art, on the concepts, on ideas I want to share through the medium of photography.

Here are some random images I’ve done lately. Captioned.

Flying with a glider plane Blanik L-13

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Sunday was a good day. 15 years ago me and my wife (girlfriend at the time) we took a course for glider plane and yesterday we celebrated our 20th anniversary at the airfield. This is my first flight after six years at very bumpy weather. Flying is like riding a bicycle, you never forget, but still an instructor is good to have.

Written by Borut Peterlin

9 June, 2015 at 09:33

Posted in Uncategorized

Two collodion workshops in the centre of the world!

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Ciao tutti,
here is a video on location scouting around my town of Dolenjske Toplice, Slovenia, EU. I’m planning to make two collodion workshops, a basic and advanced one. Please check the link on my site for detailed program.

I’m embedding also a video from the workshop that I had in Berlin, about a year ago where I’ve explained the content of the workshop.

Retouching of wet plate collodion negative

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A month ago I was in George Eastman House in Rochester on a workshop of glass negative retouching. I made a personal resolution to do a pilgrimage to GEH once a year, as it’s was very inspiring experience to learn from fantastic mentors, Mark Osterman and Nick Brandreth . Furthermore at these workshops you are invited in the GEH’s collection where examples from history of photography are presented.

This week I hadn’t had any commercial work so finally I found time to try my new tools. At the workshop we all received a retouching kit with several brushes, graphic pencil, sand paper, several varnishes, powders, razor blade, magnifying loupe, collodion glass negatives to be retouched and a folder with read on the subject. So neat! GEH’s workshops are so well organised!

Retouching basically means drawing and I do not know how to draw or better I have still much to learn about drawing. Nevertheless I’m satisfied with the results presented in the video. Of course, retouching of eyes is the most difficult thing, but my clumsy retouching is what makes the image scary. If you look at the albumen print from a retouched negative, you would never guessed that it’s retouched, if you would not see it doing and if you were not an expert in retouching. I trust my wife’s opinion, she is very cruel in her judgement toward my work and she said it’s OK. And her opinion with all due respecte overrates Mark Osterman’s opinion, which I know it’ll be critical. I totally follow his teaching, but on the aesthetic point of view we often respectfully disagree. I love his work, perfect in any view, but you see my character is different. I’m not a tidy person, I don’t find my plates messy. I could make them totally technically perfect, but I welcome some stains on corners of my plates. Like my sink, it’s not dirty! It simply isn’t! Yes it does has many silver stains and I will not clean them with aggressive chemicals, because that would just be Sisyphus’s work! So under topshit doctrine, cleaning a sink basically means irresponsible pollution of environment and consequently burning in hell! Ha!!!

Where was I?
I learned a lot at this workshop. Like I’ve down hundreds of salt prints already, but observing Mark making salt prints I’ve learned many small tricks. One of it is the following. For sensitising salt paper we usually use cotton ball and then we trow it away. What Mark does is after senzibilisation he squeezes the remaining silver nitrate into a jar and then recover this polluted silver. How brilliant is that?! Just think how much silver nitrate is thrown away with filtering, sensitising and so on? In a month time with this practice I saved almost one decilitre of silver nitrate! I can’t write all the tips & tricks I’ve learned from Mark, since that would be more suitable for a book, then a blog :-)

Let me finish this blogpost with a very comforting information that if with retouching you screw up the negative, you can undo it! For instance. If you add too much graphite on your negative, you can wipe it away with fine powder of a cuttle fish. That’s the white powder I was using in the video. With it you can remove unwanted retouching. You can also do the more drastic measure like removing whole varnish from the negative and with it the mistake you’ve made. Remember, the retouching is not happening on the collodion, but on the varnish.

That’s the main difference between dry silver-gelatine negatives and collodion negatives. Silver-gelatine negative can be scratched into emulsion whereas collodion has very very thin layer of silver (that’s what it makes it the sharpest photography medium ever) and if you would try to scratch silver from collodion negative, you would scratch it right trough.

So, Mark gave me also information on collodion-chloride paper and when I was at home, I try it, but I haven’t dry the paper sufficiently and the collodion-chloride paper got stuck on the collodion negative. I basically ruin it, the negative can not be used anymore. Then I took alcohol, diluted it to 85% and start washing the negative in the alcohol. The varnish dissolved and with it also collodion-chloride emulsion. This is not the work for light hearted one, because you can easily ruin the negative, especially if the collodion used for the negative was old. Old collodion is fragile and lost it’s flexibility and therefor it’s very fragile. There was a small chance that Mark was using very old collodion, so I washed the varnish away and revarnished the plate again. Now I can retouch it again.

The two photographs that I’ve made are available for purchase on Ebay. I added also the third one, but this one is from unretouched negative. I made it later then the video, my wife says that it’s my best photograph and so it is. You don’t want to argue with my wife, OK? Trust me on this one!!!

Please follow the link bellow. I’m blogging for already nine years, I’ve wrote more then 1000 blog posts and I’m receiving emails to publish more, make more videos. I would love to, that would be my dream job, but as a professional photographer, I need to make a living and support my family first. That said, if you would consider to give me a tip for the videos I make and the information I share, it would be most appreciated. You can tip me via Paypal and my paypal account is borutpeterlin@gmail.com
Thank you.

Written by Borut Peterlin

14 May, 2015 at 10:01

A challenging drive with Land Rover Series III, old-timer from 1972

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Yesterday I wanted to test my dark-box and my intention was to go to a beautiful pine tree that was cut in half by a lightning. It’s difficult to get there and yesterday was too muddy to reach that corner of the forrest. I know, I need a winch or even hi-lift jack would be enough to get me through the mud on the side road.

Now I had to take the dangerous muddy hill, I wanted to avoid, but I must drive it in reverse! That was scary, because it was too muddy for brakes, so I had to go with low range engine braking, only that way car was still steerable. At 5:44 you see the rock that was sticking out, I had to steer around that rock. To be honest, I was sure that I’m going to hit that rock, but I was lucky.

Anyway my dark box is working, but I’m not yet satisfied with it. I’ll make it lighter, that’s for sure. Yesterday me and my wife, we had 10th anniversary of our marriage, but we both forgot about it. Then it was on Facebook a reminder that we had an anniversary. So I’ve test the dark-box and made a portrait of us.

Written by Borut Peterlin

1 May, 2015 at 08:31

Posted in land rover

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From the most famous photography exhibition in the world The Family of Men exhibition

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The past week I was in Luxembourg where I was a guest of European Month of Photography – EMOP. I was nominated together with Marcell Esterházy, Tatiana Lecomte, Andreas Muehe, Lina Scheyniusfor for Arendt Award for Photography. The winner of the award of 5000 EUR was Tatiana Lecomte.

I’ve seen some pretty amazing works of art, exhibitions, artists, curators and collectors. Very inspiring, can’t wait to meet most of them in Arles, the most important photography festival in Europe, and present my new work.

We visited also probably the most famous photography exhibition of all times, The Family of Men, curated by Edward Steichen. I loved it totally and I’ve photographed as much as I could so I could share it on my blog. It’s amazing how Steichen juxtaposed photographs, isn’t?

Wikipedia: The Family of Man was an ambitious photography exhibition curated by Edward Steichen, the director of the Museum of Modern Art’s (MOMA) Department of Photography. It was first shown in 1955 from January 24 to May 8 at the New York MOMA. Steichen’s international collection of images, included his focused tour of 11 European countries including France, Switzerland, Austria and Germany. In total, Steichen procured 300 images from European photographers which were first organized into the Post-War European Photography exhibition on display at the Museum of Modern Art in 1953. Due to the incorporation of this body of work into the 1955 The Family of Man exhibition, Post-War European Photography is thought of as a preview to The History of Man.

After its initial showing at The Museum of Modern Art in 1955, the exhibition toured the world for eight years, making stops in thirty-seven countries on six continents. More than 9 million people viewed the exhibit. The physical collection is archived and displayed at Clervaux Castle in Luxembourg (Edward Steichen’s home country; he was born there in 1879 in Bivange). It was first presented there in 1994 after restoration of the prints. In 2003 the Family of Man photographic collection was added to UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register in recognition of its historical value.

Written by Borut Peterlin

28 April, 2015 at 00:37

At 5am in Venice

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Few weeks ago I had a job in Venice and I couldn’t resist not to do some 5am photography. 5am is one of my favourite projects. The basic concept is to be a part of the day when night had finish already and the day haven’t started yet.

Sometime around 5am there exists a subtle moment when day chases its tail. Laborers are off to work; party-goers are finding their way home.

In the wee hours, ambiguity rages between night and day, light and dark, predator and prey, mind and instinct, life and death. This surreal relationship between contrasts seems to linger in what is just the blink of an eye.

In one sentence, it’s a love affair with light. I love it, being awake before everybody and having an eternity just for myself. I walk and observe without any rush, without any obligations and without any expectations whatsoever. It’s my walking meditation channeled trough photography.

As I’ve mentioned in the video I’ve started the project in Fabrica in year 2000, because after Oliviero Toscani left, I could not get a permission to go out and do photography. My kind of photography! You know, the kind of photography that does not sound sane in an application form and on top of that it does not have a deadline or a goal to achieve? I remember very clearly when a senior staff was explaining me that I should sketch how will my photographs look like, before I take a camera in my hands. I explaining him that if I would do so, I would make an image that is made with my mind and my mind is just recycling concepts and in this way I can not come up with nothing original. You can imagine the face of the temporary head of the department…

Anyhow, in the video above is presented a book dummy that I’ve created in 2008. After that I was doing my 5am routine wherever I traveled and bellow there are few recent images from Lithuania, Poland, Slovenia, USA, Czech Republic and of course Venice, Italy.

The project will be finished in a book, I’m quite certain about it. You might remember that in my post from Les Recontres Arles festival I’ve mentioned that Dewi Lewis remembered me for some crazy project of mine? In one sentence I’ve met Mr. Lewis more then ten years ago at Frankfurt Book Fair and after all those years he still remembered me and one of my crazy projects. He remembered my 5am project! How amazing is that?!?

To repeat fast, Dewi Lewis is one of the most important photography book publishers in the world and he was a publisher of Martin Parr (before Faidon), William Klein, Erwin Olaf, to name just few and he remembered my 5am project ten years later when we’ve met in Arles. Of course I will make new 5am book dummy and send it to him.

If you will be in Vienna Photo Book Festival I will be there also with my photo books. That said, the book isn’t published yet, so I can’t sell you one, but someday I will.

Bellow are images that I’ve made in Venice. This is my selection from couple of mornings and only few images will actually end in a book. At the bottom there is a slideshow I’ve made years ago with music of Daniel Wehr. Daniel was a fellow student in Fabrica.it in year 2000 and he made this music for my 5am project. He even walked with me one 5am morning, recording sound, but he didn’t like the sound of camera shutter, so next day I got up even sooner at 4am :-)

Written by Borut Peterlin

6 April, 2015 at 11:58

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