TOPSHIT PHOTOGRAPHY blog

Photography, Fine Art, Wet Plate Collodion, Alternative photography

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Topshit Photo-Safari, January 2016

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Here is a video from last weeks photo-safari in deep forest of Kočevski rog, Slovenia. If you want to join check my schedule at my WORKSHOP site. Unfortunately all the informations aren’t available just yet, but they will be in few days. The reason why I haven’t found time to finish the site is that I have a guests from Singapore and London, so we are exploring new locations for new workshops. Please check the dates on THIS link  and see if some term is matching your schedule. As said in few days I will publish more information. Exciting information!

But I can tell you that in July we are preparing unprecedented program from the region of Kočevski rog. Visitors will enjoy the exhibitions, talks, tours down in caves or up with paragliders, hiking or bicycling tours, learn about honey, herbs, observe bears in wild and of course take photography workshops. I’m a part of initiative to gather activities that are here forever and unite them under one month lasting event! More to follow!

Written by Borut Peterlin

31 January, 2016 at 02:04

Barbed wired final frontier of EU

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Dear readers,
I’ve started a new project. I’m foremost documentary photography and ever since I got myself devoted to wet plate collodion process, I regretted the fact that I’ve parted with the spontaneity and playfulness of 35 mm photography. I desperately wanted to smooth my workflow, so the complexity of wet plate collodion process will not stand in my vision of documentary photographer, going around, taking pictures. That’s why I’ve made this invincible wet-plate mobile! If you are wet-plate practitioner you will appreciate a lot the content of this video, because wet-plate workflow has never been easier! Of course the dark-box is the key, as I’ve described in my LAST POST.

Now, finally, I can devote myself again to documentary photography I cherish so much. My theme is The Final Frontier of EU, more precisely the EU’s Schengen border. To prevent migration of refugees from Syria and immigrants from other places, Slovenian government decided to put barbed wire on our south border!

 

71WHId5NVOL._SL1500_Imagine that!?! I do not know what think and what will they solve with what? Imagine that thousands of refugees will flood across the river Kolpa to Slovenian soil and take a stand there! What will Slovenian government do then? I mean it’s not 1939, journalists are all around and on top of everything we should pretend to be civilised, so we set barbed wired fence. To stop what and who? Deers?

Most of my readers don’t know much of history of Slovenia and there is no reason why should you know, but in this context I will say few lines. Slovenia used to be part of Yugoslavia, governed by communistic regime that resist Stalin’s politic and therefore received a lot of

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Deer that died in huge pain. Photo: Tine Lindič

sympathy from West and East. There was a very real threat that Soviet Union will invade Yugoslavia like they did to Czechoslovakia, Lithuania and others. Churchill delivered The Iron Curtain Speech in 1946 and its south-east border was actually Slovenia (that was part of Yugoslavia at the time). So what I’m trying to say is that in the past we experienced some really difficult times and inspire of being threatened with invasion, even when the Iron Curtain was being set on our borders with Italy and Austria, even in the dark times like this, our ancestors did not think of making our country like barbed wired concentration camp!

That said Slovenian nation, we deserve the finger up our asses, for being a faithful servants of our masters, support the imperialistic war in Iraq and dismantling Middle East, being quite at violation of human rights issues, buying particular arms and basically everything we supposed to do, to receive crumbs from the table. There is solely one good lesson to be learned from this refugee crisis. The whole Europe and the world has learned that whatever war happens wherever in the world, we will have in a month time refugees knocking at our door! USA is safe, they do not care, but people we have learned that you can not cross a border as a single person, but a flow of hundred thousands of refugees is unstoppable!

I say this in first person, because on the contrast to most of you, I do not exclude the scenario that I and my family might need to flea from a future war. I was 9 years old, I still remember very clearly, we had a lunch, I was being very picky and my grand father said, appreciate the food, because tomorrow it might be another war. I was laughing at him, thinking how silly he is, but not even ten years later we had a war!

Topshitest dark-box in the world!

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Oh, I am so happy with this dark-box I’ve done in the last few days. In October 2014 I’ve bought a Land Rover Series 3 from year 1972 and it took me more then half a year that I started to trust the car and foremost my ability to fix it, or more often then not, recognising I need a help from a friend to do the maintenance of the truck.

I so much love photographing outdoor, especially documentary photography and you know how annoying is to do it in wet plate collodion process. Sure I’ve done it many times, you can get to a location, set up a tent and you work whole day at the location, clean the stuff and go home with bunch of plates. In the last four years that I do wet plate collodion photography, only twice it happened that I’ve set up a tent, took few plates, cleaned the place up, move to another location, set up the tent, do another bunch of plates, clean it and go home. It is so exhausting this moving. And moving a dark-box or a tent is not a problem, it’s to pour back all the chemistry, prepare it for transport… ARGHHH!!!

I had in mind for a long time a wet plate collodion mobile, a car that it will have a dark box and most importantly all other chemistry prepared in such a way that I would stop the car, set a camera, pour the plate, develop a plate and move to another location. I know few people have camper vans or even trailers, which is fantastic, but not suitable for my environment, not suitable for motifs I want to photograph.

Land Rover, Series 3, 109 LWB, Station Wagon, an old-timer from 1972 is perfect for my needs. It’s cheap to buy, it’s cheap to maintain (parts are cheap, but you have to do the mechanical work by yourself or go bankrupt),  it’s almost free to insure and foremost it looks good on you! Sure it’s not cheap to drive, it burns 13 litres of petrol per 100km (USA: 18 mpg), but it’s not a car for daily use, it’s a tool! I drive it about once a week down to the river or up into forests, near my house, to bring all the equipment,  I rarely make a trip longer then 100 km. You don’t want to drive long time with this car!

Screenshot 2016-01-02 23.16.42

A dark-box as a crate on a roof rack

Anyhow now I’m happy with my dark box. I need to make another shelf beside the dark-box on which I will have a bath with fixer or humectant and a box to store clean and exposed plates. On top of everything I can make a bed in my car! I can easily make a bed size 135cm x 180cm. OK, if I will have a dark box inside, it will be 50 cm narrower, but still plenty of space. When I was in Vienna PhotoBook Festival, I was camping inside the truck and had also a cooker for making soups, tea and other tasty meals. The dark box can be used also on the roof rack as a crate for storage.

 

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River Susica, a wet plate collodion negative on glass, format 10x15cm, taken with Kodak Folding Brownie 3A, from about 1905. Exposure: F/64, 5 minutes, old collodion, silver bath 5,7pH

Today I’ve made a quick test before lunch to see if window is properly filtering daylight and I’ve made this wet plate collodion negative. It’s done with Kodak Folding Brownie 3A, from year 1905, it was one of the first compact cameras in the world! Amazing camera, I love it so much. The most important is that I’ve made the plate in about half an hour with all the setting up and going back home to catch the lunch.  This Land Rover and the dark box is the most important tool I have! It will make a wet plate collodion process natural and easy. So happy!

Last but not least, my new year’s resolution is to make more videos and blog posts. I am amazed how many people are following me trough social network! The Ebay auctions are going good, the last one reached about 230 EUR and then I’ve sold another copy of the print to an Italian bidder that lost a bidding against a bidder from USA. Of course the second albumen print from the last auction was sold for slightly higher price then the wining bid was. If I add up the support from my patreons and the commissions that I receive in Slovenia and workshops I have, I must say it’s going great. I want to thank you, by revealing my craft secrets, that I have none, inspiring others and being inspired by others.

Thank you and remember topshit 2016 happens!

Christmas special video on albumen printing and wet plate collodion negative

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Ha, I finally finished my Christmas special video, few days after Christmas, but never mind. In this video I’m researching different lenses from Petzval Gasc & Charconnet from 1860’s to Voigtlander Heliar from 1930’s to Schneider Tele-Xenar from 1970’s. Then I’m making albumen prints from wet plate collodion negatives and I’m analysing the results. It’s my home-work for my new project on Schengen border that is wrapped in barbed wire, but more about it later.

Screenshot 2015-12-27 15.17.45.pngOf course I’m listing the best print on Ebay as an auction from $ 0,99 USD and I’ve set it for five days, so it will be ending at the end of the year. Party like it’s 1999! I’m really happy with this work, it’s my final home-work, before starting a new project. As you probably know, European Union is a union of different countries, but the official – police- border is not set at the final frontier of the EU, but it’s actually set on the border of Slovenia and Hungary, if we are talking about south east border. HERE is a link about the Schengen Area of 26 countries and HERE is how it looks in barb wire! I will devote a post about my new project, probably before the end of the year.

About the print, I hope you like it, it’s the best I can do. It’s the closest I got to the perfect albumen prints done by Eadweard Muybridge, that I’ve seen in George Eastman House. In the print I’ve invested absolutely all the knowledge I have about wet plate collodion negatives, albumen printing processes, large format cameras and photography on general.

And you can tell, I’m not taking any shortcuts! Some people prefer to drive a car, fast cars, but I prefer to walk. Sure, it takes much more effort and yes, I might arrive at the same place much later then everybody, but when we will arrive to our goals, although standing side by side, we will not be the same people, as we started the journey. And… I prefer to walk, I prefer to do hand-made photography.

If you want to learn the process properly, you need to go to George Eastman House, where you will see vintage prints from Masters of Photography and you will be thought by a master of photography, Mark Osterman! If you are based in EU, you don’t need me to express my condolence, but you can also take some of my topshit workshops. Schedule for 2016 is coming soon.

Last but not least, I must tell you that I’m over flooded with emails concerning details about the process. I can’t answer all of them, but I do make a reply to every question asked by my patrons, so if you want to join the crowd, please visit my patreon.com/borutpeterlin site.

Thank you for supporting my work, either trough bidding on my prints, sharing my videos and foremost being my patreon. I appreciate it a lot!

 

Today is the 20th anniversary of the end of war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and I’m opening an exhibition “Tour de Dayton”

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Today, 14th of December 2015, is the 20th anniversary of the end of the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The war ended in 1995 with a peace accord signed by Serbian, Croatian and Bosnian political leaders in Dayton, Ohio, USA. By this peace accord Bosnia and Herzegovina was devided into two ethnical entities, Republic Srbska and Federation of BiH. Locally this border is also named as Dayton border.

I decided to do a project about this border that never existed before, by documenting the border on a bicycle. I named the project Tour de Dayton. I cycled on this ethnical border and photographed Bosnian landscape and how it became a medium in the hands of new nationalistic politics and explore how this new nationalistic symbolism coexist with symbols of former Socialistic Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

I decided to cycle on the border with my camera and heavy duty panoramic head Manfrotto 303 plus (video-log about the gear). Why cycling? Bicycle is the best transportation system for a travel photographer, no doubt about that, plus I wanted to physically endure the path, the road, the border. I must admit immediately, that I haven’t succeed it, I didn’t cycled trough all the border, but only about 500 km on two separate occasions.

The reason why I failed is of boring financial nature. Not that I couldn’t finance the project, it is cheap to cycle, but I received a commission I couldn’t say no and I had to return back home and do the job. You know, the curse of being an artist, a professional photographer and responsible father at the same time plus on top of everything being born with workaholic disability of only two hands!?!?

Therefore I never exhibited my project, but today is the 20th anniversary, so I’m making sort of guerrilla exhibition in one of the best galleries in Slovenia, Photon Gallery. My exhibition will be on the walls for only today and tomorrow, since they are opening a new show on Friday and I jumped for a day or two.

Is it worth it, an exhibition for a day? Absolutely! I consider myself a documentary photography and I have this ridicules drive that I need to document the environment, to express my feelings about it and by doing it to experience the life fully. At the bottom is a video-log on the project, from 2011.

So I invite you to the opening of my exhibition today, on Monday, 20th of December, 2015, at 19:00 in Gallery Photon, Ljubljana, Slovenia.

Relevant links:

Wikipedia Dayton Agreement

Gallery on my website www.borutpeterlin.com

Photon Gallery

Blog post from 30. June 2011.

Blog post from 22.5.2007

Homework on picking aesthetic for my next project

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20151107_7407

Toned silver-gelatine photograph of a December day, contact printed from 8×10″ collodion negative. The print is split toned with sulphide toner, Fomalux silver-chloride paper was used for contact printing and the fiber based paper was ferrotyped for high glossy surface.

I’ve made this beautiful print from a horrible negative. The good things about negative / positive process is that you can get away with many things. Two weeks ago I got my silver bath heavily contaminated because of unfortunate event that I want to forget, I cleansed that silver with kaolin, sunning and filtering, but it still wasn’t good. The silver bath was good for ambrotypes, but for negatives, it was fogging. I’ve kept that negative and I love it a lot. When I came home I repeated the cleansing process and it’s OK now.

Next week I’m going to photograph EU border that is barb-wired to prevent crossings of immigrants and refugees. The so called schengen border is very near my home, few tens of kilometres and I will go there and document it. I decided to go with Petzval lens, because it’s not covering fully the format and it has such a eerie feeling and communicate well my feelings about it. I’m still lingering about the final printing process, should I go with silver-gelatine photo paper (like the one above) or with albumen printing process. I will make an albumen print from another eerie negative and compare them.

This is a homework for every artist before starting to do the project, but especially important for a wet plate photographer, because of the extensive and precise preparation to make one photograph. Good, this is a good side being a wet plate photographer :-)

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

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