Photography, Fine Art, Wet Plate Collodion, Alternative photography

Archive for the ‘Mladina’ Category

Feature news story from Montenegro, done by 4×5″ large format view camera

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Two weeks ago I had a solo exhibition opening in very beautiful gallery Atelje Dado in Cetinje, Montenegro. It was a long trip of about 1500km there and back, but I enjoyed it a lot. The exhibition place was great, I enjoyed staying in Montenegro, we used to be in the same country and since I speak fluent Serbian, I felt like visiting a relative far away, not a tourist or a stranger at all. I’ve done also a talk and demonstration of wet plate collodion process and it was good, very good, people liked it and results were good too.

12190071_10153036221765216_7764312863671303157_n-2Before I left on the road I heard there were violent protest happening in the capital of Montenegro, so I’ve decided that I will make a reportage about that. The question was how will I do it? I can not compete with local photojournalists and I wasn’t interested in news photography, I’ve done that a lot, I wanted to do it differently. I had to think what kind of reportage will I make, how will I approach the subject, what will be the subject at all? Many important questions to be answered before picking up a camera.

Talking about the camera, I was reluctant to take my super digital camera Nikon D4 with me, it’s too heavy and too expensive and I wasn’t into news kind photojournalism anyway, so I decided to do the feature reportage with my 4×5″ camera. I’ve decided that I will not wait for the violent protest, those images will be in the news anyhow, I wanted to make a different kind of story, so I’ve made the following approach.

I’ve focused on an ordinary resident of Montenegro, made a short interview and a portrait of them. The portrait was done in the manner of August Sander. Straight, portrait, with environment, so you get a sense who are these people, what is their job, what’s their status and so on. Since I was using an old bellow camera, I got a permission to do the portrait from all of them, I couldn’t steal a portrait with this kind of camera anyhow, but still I’m experienced photojournalist in the business for about 15 years and I know that the attractive camera did brake the ice for me.

When I came home there was the hardest task, to write a story, to write a text! For all of my years as a photojournalist I always was working in a team with a journalist, but now I had to do all by myself. I was kind of confident, because I knew how am I going to do this story before I picked up a camera or ask a question, so I sit down to write the story at 8am and finished it at 4pm. The experience working with excellent journalists for magazines like The Observer, Colors Magazine, Corriere della Sera, Mladina and others, was very good foundation. Even the editor in chief of Mladina weekly, said I wrote a good text. I was really satisfied with the feature reportage that was published in Mladina weekly. You can read the full article from THIS link, but it’s in the proper language, so I apologise to English speakers.

Last but not least, I’ve showed the feature story to my friend at UK’s picture agency Panos Pictures and he found it excellent and published it on their blog as an example of a good feature story. HA!!!

Long forgotten love for photojournalism revived in me. I don’t want to do daily news, but I am interested in daily life, small stories, that are affected by the stories from the news. Plus I realised I can do a reportage with a slow view camera, better then with my ultrafast digital camera! And imagine that, I can also write!!!

Written by Borut Peterlin

8 November, 2015 at 22:21

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


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…

A portrait of a writer Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting)

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Two weeks ago I was commissioned by Mladina weekly to do the portrait of a writer Irvine Welsh, a Scottish novelist, playwright and short story writer. He is recognised for his novel Trainspotting. For the whole interview a termin of 30 minutes was reserved, which with other words mean, not time for photographer. I’ve stole 30 seconds for the portrait in the chair, before the interview and the rest was shot during interview. I used medium twin-lens camera Mamiya C330 and EFKE 100 film (I should use ISO 400, I know…). I’ve done also portraits on digital camera, just as a back-up, but those portraits were so boring, I’ll not waste Internet’s space with them. The concept of those portraits was the following. I took a straight normal portrait, I took all classic portraits that are usually done during interviews, then I said OK, let’s make few portraits that will smell like Trainspotting. What do you think?

Exhibition of my creative portraits in IJS, Ljubljana, Slovenia, EU

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Yesterday I had an exhibition opening of my creative portraits in Inštitut Jožef Stefan. With curator Tatjana Pregl Kobe, we decided to exhibit my portraits from 2006/07 on ground floor and on first floor my portraits from 2012/13. For Mladina weekly I’m making every week at least one creative portrait of a creative person and although I love making this work, it’s no easy walk, I tell you! I remember that many times I woke up in the middle of the night, because I didn’t have the concept how to do a portrait later the day. Or I was dreaming about it. Nevertheless it’s such a nice feeling to view back on your work and you know it was worth the pain, sweat and stress. And most importantly it’s still worth to continue. Last year I switched my style of portrait photography from vibrant color playful portraits (LINK) to collodion portraits (LINK). I had a feeling that I had to move on. The fact that everybody liked my wicked humor and saturated colors, was just another reason to reinvent my style before going stale. And the change was not easy or comfortable whereas discrete! From digital camera with studio lights (link to the making of video) to old view camera on a tripod and with darkroom. Also the layout of the rubric changed completely. In year 2006 the portrait was published on about 1/3 of a page and now the rubric is published as a spread with a serious text about the person being portrayed. HERE is the link from national TV.

What am I trying to say. Two things. I’m proud on this body of work. And I feel an urge that I want some more of photography. I’m really obsessed! I feel very clearly that I’m on tipping point of my career. I crossed the point of no return.

What has changed? I will not describe my feelings, just actions and then you’ll get the picture.
1) Last week I quit my job as a photojournalist. I will still do gladly portraits for my Mladina weekly magazine, but I can not afford to waste my life on news photographs that have expiry date faster then diaria! I really lost all my interest in politics. Totally. Gone…
2) Revival of skylight Studio Pelikan is one the things I feel so connected with. I feel that although we’re running on no-budget and making small tiny steps, the direction is correct and we just need to continue
3) I’m receiving a huge support in my quest in Alternative photography from all sides. From different continents even!
4) I’m taking part of the workshop of Klavdij Sluban and although I participates at workshops of really famous photographers like Saudek, Oliviero Toscani, Ralph Gibson, Martin Parr, Stephen Gill, Paul Graham, Joel Peter Witkin, Duane Michals, and who knows who have I forgot, Klavdij Sluban is the best mentor. Perhaps I’m taking part in his workshop in a particular moment of my life, but he opened many windows to me and my photography! He does magic. I sensed how he is doing it. I can’t do it yet on his level, but I understood the principle, I mapped the path I need to take. Don’t believe me? You will see the results in few months.
5) Invitation for exhibitions are raining! First one opened yesterday. Next one is in my town of Novo mesto in April. In May I have an exhibition in Krakow / Poland and then in Novi Sad / Serbia. In November I’m having a solo show in the best photography gallery in Ljubljana / Slovenia and also our workshop group under Klavdij Sluban will exhibit in Novo mesto / Slovenia.
6) I’m selling prints. I know, I know, I’m selling it in very unorthodox way, for a small price, but I don’t care. I’m worker, an artist, but I’m definitely not a salles man. I prefer to get 50 EUR now, then 5000EUR when I’ll be a retired old fart!

Last but not least, let me tell you an anecdote. I felt like this before. It was after I’ve done all the exams at London College of Printing and I was chatting with my mentor. I’ve told him how I feel so strongly that my life will change dramatically. I’ve described his how I have all this knowledge that I’ve gained and now it’s the moment when I will confront it with real life, hitting it hard, like a tsunami. Literally few hours later my girlfriend called me and told me she is pregnant :-)

Self-portrait like a cave photographer

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borut peterlin 20130212-wpc-avtoportret

In Friday’s issue of Mladina weekly there will be an article about my portraits and I’ve made this self-portrait today with the help of my wife Alenka Peterlin. The inspiration for the portrait was a couple. First I’ve heard many times, that in wetplate technique I look like a native American, second inspiration was to include an element of exploration and third was that it should look raw.
That’s my aim in photography to explore, search and learn. I know I’m doing it in primitive, raw way, but that’s exactly me, having a hell of a good time. Photography is for me what for some people religion is. A mean to become a better man, to transcend boundaries that were set, to change the world. I hope this (blind) faith is captured in the image ;-)

Technical side: It was pretty cold, like -2C and to work at this temperature I’m using a normal developer, I’m just developing longer. Usually about 30-35seconds. I extend also sensibilisation of a plate from usual 3 minutes to 5 minutes. And that all there is. Sometimes I add two drops of nitric acid in 100ml of developer, but that’s not so important at working bellow 0C. It was a lot of light so the exposure was 3sec, f/11. This portrait was taken with Kodak Folding Brownie 3A from year about 1905.

I couldn’t have done the portrait without my lovely wife Alenka Peterlin, she is also a photographer. Thank you ;-)

You can see this and many other of my creative portraits on the exhibition in the gallery of Institut Jozef Stefan. Opening Monday 18.2.2013 at 18.00.


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