Archive for the ‘Wet Plate Collodion’ Category
In this video I’m presenting my creative process how am I approaching a motif conceptually and also physically. Wet plate collodion is so slow process that an hour or two of thinking is nothing in comparison how much it takes to make one photograph.
Before I start making an image I always play a devil’s lawyer with myself asking myself annoying questions; Why are you photographing that? Who have done that before you? Are you adding something new and fresh? What would Ansel, Edward, Josef, Sally, Mark & France and others would say if (when) they will look at it? Is it worth it? Don’t you have something better to do?
If I successfully manage to defend a concept, only then I start with preparations for the shoot. And this was the case also with this tree trunk. I’m running every day trough this forrest and I have a long list of trees, valleys and few roots that I need to photograph.
In the video I haven’t talked about technical details, although I did left few educational tips. Like pouring collodion. Please take a look three small details. First when I pour collodion, I tend to make a perfect circle in the middle. That means my plate is levelled and I can pour a lot of collodion on the plate. Then I slowly, very slowly move collodion from edge to edge and on the end I slowly pouring collodion off. Yes, you got it, the key word is do it slowly, no need to hurry. This is the speed I usually do it indoor. Outdoor it’s usually drying faster, but that day was pretty cold and my collodion for negatives has more alcohol solvent then ether solvent ratio, because alcohol opens collodion pores and allow more silver to bind, causing denser negatives. That’s just the opposite that you want for ambrotypes.
Nevertheless the negative that I’ve got was very thin and almost an ambrotype. I’ve done everything correctly, but the day was cloudy and in the forrest there was very diffused light. I’ve exposed the plate correctly, meaning that my blacks didn’t had any information, but although I developed for three minutes, the negative was still very thin, almost ambrotype like. This is what Mark Osterman calls a foundation negative.
The mistake photographers often do is that they add another one or two exposure values and when they develop a plate, the negative looks much better on the first glance. Whites are dense, middle tones are denser, but blacks are gone! If you overexpose a negative, blacks are not empty, but they have information, meaning that blacks aren’t black anymore but they are dark grey! Now, if your blacks aren’t black, you can’t redevelop! Let me explain why.
Redeveloping is a process that is done at home and it’s done after fixing. Let me describe the process in plain language. When you develop a wet plate collodion negative you get three things. Glass plate, collodion layer (a binder) and you have a thin layer of silver on top. This silver is not mixed with collodion, it’s suspended on top of the plate. That is the condition that you can treat the silver with iodine, making it sensitive to light once again and then you apply developer containing fresh silver that will be bound on the foundation silver that is already bounded with collodion. What happens now? Highlights that have a lot of silver in the foundation negative will attract much more silver then middle tones that have less silver then highlights. Blacks do not have any silver and therefore will not attract no additional silver. Redeveloping process is building silver layers and that means that you are gaining contrast and density of a negative. This redeveloping process can be done for very long time and you can build a bullet-proof density of a negative.
And that is what I was after! All my wet plate collodion negatives have a bullet-proof densities. It took me literally two hours of redeveloping that I gained the sort of density I wanted. Usually it takes between 10-30 minutes, but this is an exceptional case. The foundation negative was very thin, so it catches only little silver from the redeveloping and the second reason was that I wanted to make this right, so I was adding very little silver and slowly and gradually building up the contrast. If you do it too fast, you may get pinholes in the negative. Second version of this negative I’ve done it faster and it took me only half an hour.
The end result, presented here, is a salt print toned with gold. Salt Print process was invented by Henry Fox Talbot in year 1833 and publicly announced in 1839. In principle it’s very simple process, but if you want to make it right it’s very challenging indeed. Salt print process is the printing process with huge tonal scale. Correct me if I’m wrong but only carbon printing process has a wider tonal scale. And this wast tonality range is the cause that the process demands a negative that could match the same tonality range. By my humble opinion wet plate collodion negative is far far the best negative for print-out-processes (POP). Digital negative simply can not match the density necessary for full tonality spectrum. Simply, a thick layer of silver has much better quality in blocking light then a layer of inkjet dye. Salt print process is like a train, you can lean as much as you can toward left or right, the train will go where the tracks are laid. And the salt print process is the same, it will be as good as the negative is.
Anyhow here is my salt print and you be the judge of my vantage points on the photography, either is that conceptually, aesthetically or technologically.
The print and the ambrotype is for sale, please email me on email@example.com for more details. Thank you for your attention!
Huh, I’m really happy today. I’ve shipped my book to The European Publishers Award for Photography . This is one of the most important photography awards in Europe and I’ve sent my dummy books before, but this time I’m really happy, because I know I’m sending something I truly believe in and furthermore I know I can not make it better. I, personally, did my best in making this book. I was contemplating a lot and I’ve made several versions, changing design, changing format, printing materials, rhythm of the images in the book, number of pages, select out certain images that I really love and so on. Now I feel very content with it. I can not make it better. I am not saying it can’t be done better, but I can not do it better. You may compare this version of the book with the version I’ve brought to Arles Festival and you will notice the difference.
This project The Great Depression was also shortlisted for European Month of Photography Arendt Award! It’s huge honour to be short-listed among few hundred photographers that exhibited in different capitals of Europe. The short list of only five photographers was chosen by the jury of curators and it’s not the kind of competition that you can apply to. I will be exhibiting in the exhibition space of Arendt & Medernach’s headquarters in Luxembourg from 22 April 2015 onwards.
Let me take the opportunity to announce few more news. A week ago this blog reached 500 followers on wordpress.com platform and this week is already 535 and if I count several thousands followers on Twitter and Facebook, it’s huge crowd, so I don’t want to waste your time, so I will write more information in one post.
If you are from USA, you can see my work on two locations.
As I was posting already, a triptych The Different Same is exhibited in the Mariani Gallery from January 20 – March 4, 2015. The address is University of Northern Colorado, Mariani Gallery, 501 20th St, Greeley CO 80639, USA
From 21st of February until 4th of April, you can see the albumen prints bellow in Los Angeles, that’s St. Tammany Art Association, Antiquarian Image Exhibition, 320 North Columbia St., Covington, LA 70433.
The Different Same triptych that will be exhibited at Wet Plate Collodion Juried Show in Mariani Gallery, Northern Colorado, USA
This work is a triptych. It’s a study of a medium of photography, so I’ve photographed the same tree in two different occasions. The scenery is like that only when the river Krka floods and red alarm for floodings is declared and that was on two occasions in the 2014 year. This three images were from three different glass plates. An ambrotype and two different negatives. Just look closely and you will notice how different this images are really. I’ve made a video on the first occasion and you can find it on the bottom of the post. I also came up with few new solutions how to frame glass plates, especially very heavy plates like 3+3 mm glass plates size 30x40cm (12×16″). The details are described in captions.
Anyway, what I love with the photography of 19th Century is that a photographer had about fifty processes and it’s variations how to make a photography and each of the processes had it’s aesthetic characteristic. Today digital photography is so standardized that a photographer have only one way how to exhibit a photograph, that’s an inkjet print.
And my triptych, entitled The Different Same is all about that. Like the famous photograph: Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967, by photographer Diane Arbus it appears at the first glance the same image, only when you look closer, you see that the three images are very much different and they are different because I – the author – decided to make it so. To interpret the reality as I please. Photography was never an objective medium. If I quote Susan Sontag (from heart), a photograph can only provide an evidence that something did happen, that something was happening in front of the lens. What has happened is an interpretation left to the photographer and the viewwer. Of if I may quote already mentioned Diane Arbus, “A picture is a secret about a secret, the more it tells you the less you know.”
Let me invite you to the event. The exhibition will be on display in the Mariani Gallery from January 20 – March 4, 2015. A Closing Reception and Award Ceremony will be held on Wednesday, March 4 from 4 – 6 pm. Juror Quinn Jacobson will give a lecture and gallery talk during the day. The address is University of Northern Colorado, Mariani Gallery, 501 20th St, Greeley CO 80639, USA.
Last weekend was an Art Market in Ljubjana, Slovenia, and I’ve decided to give it a go. I set up my darkroom, lights, camera and brought few examples of my work. The Art Market was lasting four days and first two days I’ve made maybe four portraits, but then an avalanche of orders came in and I was working from 10.00 to 20.00 with a 15 min break for a snack. The plates were coming out great. Even my wife who can hardly be impressed by a collodion plate, was amazed how good it turned out.
My secret is the following. I’ve made my collodion wo days before the market, based on standard Osterman’s collodion (3gr CdBr, 4gr KI, 220 collodion, 140 alcohol, 140 ether) the only modification was that I replaced ether with the same amount of alcohol. I was working indoor so I couldn’t afford that the whole building would be smellin ether. I used 99% fine-grain alcohol. The collodion didn’t ripen yet, when I was start using it, but that’s OK if you don’t overdevelop. So my collodion was very young and super fast. I was getting great contrast, because contrast of the plate it does not relate to the age of collodion, but it relates to exposure & development time. If you overexpose and under develop you will get a soft low-contrasty image and vice versa. Because the young collodion I’ve mentioned is about 2 f/stops faster then the old one, photographers usually over-expose the collodion, cut the development, get low contrasty plates and claim that’s collodion fault. It is not. You can see the contrast I was getting with my two days old collodion.
I was using two flash lights, Balcar Source 6400Ws, but I’was using only one flash, that’s 3200Ws and my aperture was 6,7. Pretty cool numbers, right?
The portrait session was exceptionally good accepted and I’m intending to repeat it on the last Saturday of the January, at the studio in downtown of Ljubljana, beside Ljubljanica river. More about that later. This experience gives me an idea. In August 2015 I’m invited for artist’s residency in Norway, Sunnhorland Museum, and I will travel by car to the north stopping on the way, giving workshops, demonstration and portrait sessions. Travelin photographer as they’ve done it 150 years ago!
PS: Here is a quick video from a couple of years ago, just you can see how I was working then.
In the last video I’ve made an ambrotype and today I’m shipping it to the buyer from Canada. I bought a wooden plank to make a box for it, but few hours later I’ve made a decent looking box. OK, the hinges are way too big and not appropriate, but for the first box I’ve made since secondary school, it’s pretty good. The finish is beeswax. In my home I only have a circular saw sandpaper and few screws, but since I’ve decided that I’ll make more boxes like this and use them as a standard packaging of my ambrotypes, I already ordered six of them at my neighbor, who’s a proper carpenter.
A collector asked me if I’m selling ambrotypes, I don’t, because they are unique and I want to leave behind me a work that will tell a story. If I sell an ambrotype, that image will be on somebody’s wall and I and anybody else will never see it again. That is one of the reason I’ve chosen wet plate negative in my artistic career. But on the end of the day, I am a professional artist, I do this for a living, it’s not my weekend hobby, so I need to sell my artwork too. So I’ve been thinking and I came to this business model.
Last week I’ve bought a “new” car, Land Rover 109, Station Wagon, model year 1972. It used to be imported in Yugoslavia (RIP) in 1982, serving as a firefighter’s car and in 1999 was a gift for a fiftieth birthday of a car mechanic which restored it entirely but never registrate it, so it was standing in a garage for last fifteen years. Last week I’ve bought it. In two weeks I’m turning forty and this is a gift and a tool I bought myself. Otherwise I hate cars. If I could I would rather spend hours on bicycle or running to do my travelings, but I can’t. If I need a car, I wanted to buy a car that is not boring and let’s face it, cars are boring as hell! They all look the same and the mantra of consumerism is “comfort über alles”. Guess what? COMFORT IS OVERRATED! And on top of that comfort is booooooooring to death!!!!!!
When I’m making my collodion landscape plates, I make two or three plates of the same motif and so if a person want’s to buy an ambrotype from me, he or she have two options:
Either pick it up from a gallery (that I’ve haven’t set up yet) and pay for the full price of an ambrotype 10×12″ that will be US $999.
Or the second option is that she or he can pre order a plate from me, so when I go next time out to do my art, I make another plate for the buyer. In this case the buyer can not choose a plate of his choice, it can only take the one I’ve made that day or decline it, no questions asked. The price in that case is less than half of it, US $399.
Sounds like a good and fair game right? Yes, I know, I would rather not be in a position that I need to sell my ambrotypes, but if you develop two habits like myself, you need to find a way to feed them!
PS: In my life I had several cars. They were all boring to death, except my very first car, Renault 4.
I grew up in this valley and every September I loved to photograph corn fields. It’s something elegant and tranquil in a field of corn. It was a sunny afternoon and I had three plates ready and subbed with albumen, so I give it a go. The negative was done in the first attempt and although the density was not as thick as it could be, due to loosing quite a lot of developer (containing silver), but that was easily compensated by the second development after fixing, the redevelopment. I just had to redevelop longer, increasing the layer of silver and busting the contrast.
Here are two beautiful prints, I hope you will like them and as it is a tradition on this blog, I’m putting these two prints on ebay auction, starting from 0,99 US$. The auction will end in three days, because I’ve learned that my customers are readers of this blog and it doesn’t matter if the auction is listed for a week or only for few days. As a professional artist (and a father of two daughters) I need to sell my work or get a “proper” job, so thus the aggressive promotion. Things are going good, great, much better than I’ve expected.
This week Art Photo Budapest fair is happening and this fair is the only international fair in Eastern Europe dedicated to art photography. Gallery Photon is presenting me in a very generous way. I’ve been told that this event is a milestone in my career. Tomorrow at 3pm I was invited in the panel to discuss art market in East Europe. As one of my presented cases it will be also this blog and my experience with ebay auctions.
I have this feeling that I’m on the right track and although I know I will not do these ebay auctions forever, it’s a brilliant marketing tool!
Isn’t that a brilliant advice? We artists have a very long history of being ignored and some of us even cut their ear off! Well I’m not cutting my ear or getting a “real job”. I enjoy what I do and thank you for all the attention. It truly helps to know that people have a harder and harder times to keep on ignoring me!
PS: My email box if stacked with questions about the processes I’m doing. I’ve answered some, but most of them I just can’t. SORRY! Please write the question here, as a comment and I will do much better job clarifying some details of the process. You can write a question anonymously, no problem.