Photography, Fine Art, Wet Plate Collodion, Alternative photography

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Kaolin, the best friend of a wet plater and his wife

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This post will be more Tips&Tricks kind of content, but I’m already uploading new video, so although my audience are not only wet platers, please bear with me.

This tip is not the basics of wet plate collodion photography, it’s a tip that might save a month of your life and potentially a lot of money. It’s a technique that you do not need to use very often, but if you do need it, it’s your only friend, it’s an emergency exit. What do you usually  do when your silver bath is contaminated and it fogs like English morning? You sun it, right? If that doesn’t work, you add baking soda and leave it for a long time to settle down, I prefer not to wait that long and I rather add baking soda so the pH is about 5-6pH and then I boil it, so 2/3 of water evaporates. Then I add water, filter it and sun it again for a day or two. Then I have perfectly pure silver bath with which is a joy to work.

Last week I’ve done all of the above, but after filtering silver bath still looked muddy. Strange, strange, very strange, I thought. What do you do when you see something like that? I know what you’re thinking and you are WRONG, you do not publish it immediately on FB with a caption: What’s that?!? NO, that it’s not how you do it! You go back and investigate what went wrong.

I cleaned the pot to see if the coating of the pot chipped off somewhere and UAU, it was a massive corrosion and the metal part of the pot was in contact with my silver bath. Do you know what metal is a developing agent in a wet plate collodion developer? It’s iron, a sulphate of iron! So that means the silver bath reacted with the pot and it contaminated throughly!

In this case, all the sun in the world will not help to clear the silver bath, so you need to call special forces, you need a bad-ass called Kaolin! It’s a fine powdered clay, that is used for china making. It is known to bind on itself all sorts of stuff, but in our case, it will clear the silver bath.

So I’ve added few spoons of Kaolin and the cleansing started immediately. After a minute it was much much better. I left it sunning for a day, so all the clay sedimented down and clear silver was ready for more wet plate photography. The contamination of the silver-nitrate with iron took a fat toll, but at least I saved the remaining silver. If I wouldn’t had kaolin, I would have to dispose it.

Talking about disposing silver-bath. Mark Osterman told me, that when he started with the wet plate collodion process in 90’s it was a habit that photographers were using silver bath until it got contaminated and then they disposed it and mixed it fresh! He have learned from ancient books about sunning, baking soda, boiling, kaolin and all this witchcraft that we do today. I can imagine that us wet platers hurts the thought that we would need to mix new silver-baths every month or so, but there is one nice method how they’ve disposed the silver bath. They used it for painting of wooden fences and apparently it offers fantastic protection! I also read in Osterman’s Collodion Journal that silver nitrate was popular for dying hair. Imagine how permanently black hair were! My hair is getting kind of gray, I might spare some silver nitrate :-)

Back to the topic. Kaolin can be used also to clean your silver bath during wintertimes, when there isn’t much available sun, I use it to cleanse my silver bath for albumen printing. The only way to get albumen out of your silver bath is, you guessed it correctly, Kaolin! I also used a table spoon of kaolin with some baking soda to help my digestion problems. Seriously, it really helps! This is pure classic medicine, it’s not alternative mambo jambo! But all the methods above are alternative usage of Kaolin. Today it’s mostly used in beauty saloons, for facial masks, since it also cleanses skin. So the bottom line is the same as the title:
Kaolin, the best friend of a wet plater and his wife!

PS: Last but not least, this blog is supported by crowd founding. Thank you for the support. My page is HERE.

Written by Borut Peterlin

19 November, 2015 at 17:58

A Tribute to Ansel Adams workshop. Topshit workshop!

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Last weekend I had a workshop, A Tribute to Ansel Adams workshop. We were doing mostly analogue photography with large and middle format cameras. Next workshop is in two weeks, that’s 30., 31. of October and 1st of November 2015. I have two more places open. The same location, Baza 20, Kočevski rog, Slovenia. Photographers under 26 years and local photographers have a massive discount. My email is More info on:


Minuli vikend sem, v sodelovanju z Dolenjskim muzejem, priredil fotografsko delavnico in ta isti program ponavljam na delavnici zadnji vikend oktobra 2015. Slovenski fotografi in mlajši od 26 let imajo konkreten popust. Na voljo sta še dve prosti mesti. Več informacij na mojem emailu in strani:

Logotip Topshit Photography je kreiral Tomato Košir
Internet stran pa

Written by Borut Peterlin

14 October, 2015 at 08:33

Topshit Photo Safari was a success!

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Dear readers of my blog, I’m back! Not that I’ve left anywhere, but I was working really hard to make my workshop happen. I organised a five days workshop, two days working outdoor and three days working indoor. We covered wet plate collodion negatives, albumen printing, salt printing and collodion chloride printing. After that I had another two days of individual workshop on carbon printing. Very intense indeed!

I’ve decided to set up our headquarters in Sitarjeva hiša, a house from 1886 and was abandoned for last 17 years. It did not had a running water or electricity, but with the generous help of Anže Grabeljšek, Sanja Gorišek, Nastja Frey Gorše and municipality of Dolenjske Toplice, we sorted things out! I had many concerns and I had two back up options, but the house with it’s charisma is destined to host more art events! In fact I’m exhibiting new work there, so let me invite you to the exhibition of my panoramas on 27th of August at 7pm.

Expect more topshit events like this! For now I’m going to organise a workshop with a theme: Tribute to Ansel Adams. I’m planning a workshop on analog photography, with medium and large format cameras, for about 8 people. We will do rafting, camping, off roading and developing contact prints. We will explain the zone system, have a talk in the middle of forrest about Adams’s work and legacy… It will be 4th and 5th of September. The price for it is 250 EUR and includes cameras, films, paper, chemistry and food while camping. (Če razumeš slovensko, si avtomatsko zaslužiš konkreten popust) I know it’s short notice, but I have friends who already booked, so only few spaces are available, so we will not wait for you, but don’t worry, I will have more workshops. More topshit workshops is what we need! I will make an official notice in the following days. My email is

I’m talking also with Nikon, we might make a photo-safari trip on digital photography during wine picking season. And I’m thinking to organise a collodion new year celebration in some cottage deep in the forrest of Slovenia (or is it properly written Slovakia?!?) What do you think, is it topshit enough idea?

Anyway, please check the images bellow and read captions and remember…
Topshit does happens!

Topshit Centre of Photography opens!

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Today was a great day. Months of preparations, planning and hard work calumniated in the introduction of the house of Sitarjeva hiša in a new role. We’ve installed a darkroom, daylight working room, chilling room, a gallery and a dance room!

The house was made in 1887, but it was for last seventeen years abandoned. It does not have running water, electricity or heating. But We will change that. We are changing that! With the generous help of Anže Grabeljšek, Nastja Frey Gorše, Sanja Gorišek and municipality of Dolenjske Toplice, we are reviving the house in the centre of Dolenjske Toplice.

Everything is ready for the beginning of the topshit photography workshop in the centre of the topshit world! Expect more news from the workshop, expect traveling, adventure, weird creatures in castles, driving off road, swimming, rafting, camping, visiting museum collections and foremost making wet plate collodion negatives, salt prints and albumen prints.

Oh… Today we had a visit already! On Sunday I was portraying on the streets of Ljubljana and by pure coincidence I’ve met a journalist from USA, who is researching exactly what I do, traveling, workshops, creativity and adventure. Today she came for a visit and made an interview. I am not kidding you, it’s true! Hey, I’m preaching this all the times, so let me repeat again:

Wet Plate Collodion Safari

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Video Collodion Journal, Vinica, Slovenia, 2.7.2015. This time I didn’t had perfect plates. They were OK, but it could be better so I finished the day in the river :-)
PS: One more space left for Collodion Photo Safari, 29th of Jully – 2nd of August 2015.—Negative-&-Printing/1/

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 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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