TOPSHIT PHOTOGRAPHY blog

Photography, Fine Art, Wet Plate Collodion, Alternative photography

Exhibition of Wet Plate collodion landscapes

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In September 2014 I had an exhibition in Cankarjev dom in Ljubljana. I’ve enjoyed that period of life a lot, taking wet plate negatives, photographing river, defeating summer heat by a swim in a river together with my kids. What a privilege to be alive! I’ve recorded a lot a videos to pass on the knowledge I’ve generously received from Mark Osterman and the Collodion community. I’ve enjoyed the work so much I never found time to edit the video material and unfortunately the material just piled up. In the last few months I haven’t record any videos, because I knew I must edit the old material first and yesterday I’ve started at 9pm, finished at 3am and 12 hours later it’s live on youtube. I hope you will find some useful information and some inspiration in it.

The exhibition represents a path that I walked through in the last two years, while learning the process. But the exhibition started with the tintype of frozen river Krka, that I’ve made two months after I’ve started to do wet plate collodion at the temperature of -17C. HERE is the post from February 2012.

The exhibition is devoted to a painter Božidar Jakac and the concept is inspired by words of a poet Tone Pavček, engraved in his gravestone:

You’ve remained part of the landscape, its pain and its beauties.

And this concept is mirrored in the images, I wanted that in every of image there would be a presence of beauty and pain. I’ve designed the exhibition to be dynamic. I’ve exhibited original tintypes, ambrotype glass plates, toned albumen prints, salt prints, carbon prints, toned cyanotypes and also some toned silver-gelatine enlargements and ink-jets from wet plate collodion negatives.

The most important result from the two years walk, it can not be shown directly, but it’s the most important result. I’ve learned the process, I have no open questions and I can make a good image in (almost) any conditions. I’ve learned many different processes and those tools will play a crucial role in my future art career.

Last but not least, if you want to learn some of that hands-on photography processes, I warmly recommend workshops in George Eastman House with Mark Osterman. It’s one thing to learn the process, but it’s something different to get an access to one of the most interesting and rich collection of photography and feel that you are a part of it.

I can not offer that, but I do offer individual workshops, so if you’re interested in buying a print from me or a workshop, please send me an email to borutpeterlin@gmail.com

The Different Same triptych that will be exhibited at Wet Plate Collodion Juried Show in Mariani Gallery, Northern Colorado, USA

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An albumen print, double coated with albumen and twice hand coated with silver, toned with gold, contact copied from a wet plate collodion plate, format 10x12".

An albumen print, double coated with albumen and twice hand coated with silver, toned with gold, contact copied from a wet plate collodion plate, format 10×12″.

A carbon print on glass, contact copied from a (manipulated) wet plate collodion plate, format 10x12".

A carbon print on glass, contact copied from a (manipulated) wet plate collodion plate, format 10×12″.

An ambrotype, a wet plate collodion plate, format 10x12".

An ambrotype, a wet plate collodion plate, format 10×12″.

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.

The rule of a Cheetah

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An albumen print toned with gold, from a wet plate collodion negative.

An albumen print toned with gold, from a wet plate collodion negative.

A wet plate collodion negative. The negative was solely subbed on edges of the glass plate and after 20 minutes of redevelopment, it got torn in a surreal way. I've dried it  on heat and varnish it.

A wet plate collodion negative. The negative was solely subbed on edges of the glass plate and after 20 minutes of redevelopment, it got torn in a surreal way. I’ve dried it on heat and varnish it.


A friend of mine who is a very successful business man told me the rule of a Cheetah. Cheetah is the fastest running animal and it can reach the speed up to 121 km/h. For achieving that kind of speed it uses wast amount of energy. If the chase was not successful, if the pray runs away, the cheetah needs to rest for the rest of the day. In the next week Cheetah has two more attempts to chase down a pray. If the predator misses a pray for the third time, cheetah dies from exhaustion.

The same rule can be applied in business. You may have a wonderful product, the best one in the world, but if you don’t sell it, you will never be able to launch another one and your business will get exhausted.

This is the problem of my life. I’m passionately interested in so many things at the same time, I have a hard time to focus and limit my interests. I have a good excuse, I live in small country of Slovenia, residents of two million so to make a living in such a small market is difficult. The good side is that I’ve learned so many things and I can use them all in my expression. Like at the moment I’m writing this post fiddling with HTML code, in the afternoon I was making albumen prints and before noon I was fixing a carburettor of my car, an old-timer. Before the end of the day I might start editing a video. And oh, this is important, for lunch I’ve made a fantastic risotto with curry, vegetables and soya chunks.

I love making stuff and I have no fear in tackling things, even if I’m not successful, which happens. Like yesterday I’ve cleaned the carburettor, the engine was running smoothly I went for a quick ride, but the rust from the fuel tank got into my engine and the car lost all the power. I had to call my neighbour to winch me home again. Look at the bottom of the post.

But my new year’s resolution is to declutter my life style, to focus. I will focus my career into three branches.

  • My priority number one remains my artistic career, although I can’t live from it just yet, I expect that in 2015, this will change. It will change, I can feel it on my bladder!
  • In next few months I will crack down the woodburytype process, I’m very close, I can see the light!
  • Workshops, making portraits, building a social network.

Let me finish with the a success story of the year 2014. Brewery Pivovarna Laško is celebrating a 190’th anniversary and for that occasion they are bringing to the market a special beer made from a hundred years old receipt. My task was to portray the three experts from the brewery company as specialists. The campaign was conceived by Atelje Balant and now Slovenia is still flooded with collodion images!
At this occasion I would like to thank Anže Grabeljšek and Christian Klant on assisting me during this intensive shoot.

The digital photo by Vid Klančičar jr.

Photo: Vid Klančičar jr.

My neighbour winching me home after my carburettor was jammed with rust from  rusted fuel tank. When I came home I ordered a new fuel tank and new fuel pump.

My neighbour winching me home after my carburettor was jammed with dirt from rusted old fuel tank. When I came home I ordered a new fuel tank and new fuel pump.

Written by Borut Peterlin

2 January, 2015 at 23:54

Outsourcing our lives

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We live in an outsourced society. We are so specialised in our professions that we lost the big picture why do we do the things we do.

I’ve read somewhere that there is not a human being in the world who could make an ordinary pencil from scratch! Have you listen to the TED talk Thomas Thwaites: How I built a toaster — from scratch? Thomas the man tried to make a toaster by himself and it was the impossible project. My point exactly!

It’s a good reason why our society got so specialised. Imagine that it takes you three days to make an axe and two days to make a spear. Your neigbor is slower than you and it takes him five days to make an axe and two days to make a spear! It makes sense for both of you to trade tools. Your neigbor trades two spears for one axe and so it takes him six days to make three spears, from which two spears he trades for one axe with you. If he doesn’t trade he will have a spear and an axe in eight days, but if he makes a trade, it takes him six days to have an axe and a spear. Whereas for you, if you do not trade, it takes you five days to make an axe and a spear, but if you do make a trade it takes you six days to have an axe and two spears! Additional benefit comes with specialisation that the quality and the speed of the production increases.

The problem occurs when our jobs became so specialised that we see only very small fragment of reality and although we would love to do some work on our own, like working in garden, fixing a car, building a house, teaching children, etc…, we simply can not do it! Our society it got so specialised and efficient that we do not have time to do these things on our own! We need to outsource our lives, to find time to do the things we do for somebody else! I’m sure you know what I’m talking about and no, I am not intending to write an anthropological essay about it, other people are specialised to do that.

What I’m trying to say is that today I’ve changed the cooling fluid in my Old-Timer. A friend of mine Miha Kaiser knows a lot about Land Rovers and cars on general and he’s teaching me how the car works and what I need to do to get my car back in the shape. It’s really exciting, I start enjoying the things that are done properly. Small things. Like a good running engine. Sometime ago I’ve read a book Zen and The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig, I’m slowly, but surely finding beauty or “Quality” (if I’m referring to the book) in small everyday occasions. So exciting!

The bottom line is that tomorrow it’s forecasted heavy snowing and on Monday a sunny day. My Land Rover will take me into my studio, that’s forest and rivers, to do some serious wet plate work. If you are interested in supporting my behaviour disorder and buying an art-work from me, please send me an email borut@borutpeterlin.com and I will let you know all the details. Basically I’m intending to do ambrotypes and albumen prints format 10×12″, that’s 25x30cm and if you preorder an art work of mine, I’ll make an additional ambrotype for you for half the price, that’s for $399 USD for an ambrotype or $250USD for an albumen print. If you later change your mind, it’s no problem at all.

Written by Borut Peterlin

28 December, 2014 at 01:44

Posted in land rover

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Making portraits at Art Market in Ljubljana, Slovenia

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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?

Last but not least, a big thanks to Grega Cokan and Anže Grabeljšek for their generous support!

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.

Theater performance Beton Ltd., Upor ni človek

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I feel privileged to be a photographer of Anton Podbevšek Teater, an avant-garde theatre. Past week there was a theatre performance dealing with a topic of a human to resist to cause a resistance. This is a teaser and photographs I’ve made. It’s great to spend time with such a talented artists and being a witness of a production of a theatre performance. Photographs and this short video teaser was done by me.

Beton Ltd. 

Performers:
PRIMOŽ BEZJAK
BRANKO JORDAN
KATARINA STEGNAR
Laika

Concept: Beton Ltd.
Concept and creation of short films: Rok Biček,
Klemen Dvornik, Žiga Virc
Music: Dead Tongues (Janez Weiss, Jure Vlahovič)

39. premiere of Anton Podbevšek Teater

Written by Borut Peterlin

8 December, 2014 at 21:10

Thoughts on photography: Breaking the rules – what a stupid cliche…

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IMG_20141122_105014521_HDR I’ve bought a Land Rover 109, year 1972, an old-timer. It took me more than a month to fix (almost) everything and the last thing was changing the tires. Last Friday I’ve registered and insured the car and went on the road to buy new tires. I took a short cut to Ljubljana, through forest, I mean that’s where Land Rovers are at home, but a maniac crashed in me with a Mitsubishi pick-up truck. He was speeding as hell and I couldn’t steer my car away, since the old-timer does not have a servo steering system or ABS brakes. The other car steered in the hill and then bounced back in me, crashing sideways. Look at the damage the impact caused with sideways crashing. And that’s a Land Rover not plastic fantastic car! The pick-up truck took another 30 meters before he could stop. Imagine what would happen if we would crash head to head… Luckily this did not happen and nobody was hurt. The very next moment a peculiar thought came into my mind, totally irrational in the context of the event:

Damn it, your life almost suddenly ended and until now you’ve published only one book! Only one fucking book!!! Who will publish all of your beloved book dummies if you don’t care to bother?!?

Books that I've done with my photography. These are mainly handmade books.

Books that I’ve done with my photography. These are mainly handmade books.

I think a book is a perfect medium for my photography and so in the middle of a forest, at completely inappropriate time I’ve made a resolution to start publishing my books, starting right now by writing down some thoughts on photography. I mean that was the initial purpose of this sketch book of mine, the Topshit Photography BlogOriginal since 2006! ON BREAKING RULES… Breaking the rules is such a stereotype in our world. I’ve just googled the expression and it came down to about 217 million hits. I haven’t clicked trough all the 217 million sites, but the general understanding of the expression differs very much from my understanding! What are rules? Metaphorically speaking rules are like crutches. A person who can not walk use crutches to gain more support and crutches take weight from his legs to his hands, increasing balance. If you were one of the lucky ones who had never been seriously injured you don’t have a clue how difficult and complex activity is to start walking again. Walking is basically a continues fall. Imagine you’ve managed to stand up on your two feet. Fantastic, indescribable feeling that only champions can feel. The bad news is that if you want to start walking you need to lose balance by leaning forward, start falling forward, with one leg catch the fall, lift your body up into balance and then again leaning forward loosing balance and catching the fall with the other leg. Basically you are juggling with your balance while (usually) being in great pain. Crutches are your best friends :-) Once the person know how to walk again can use a simple walking stick and later start walking without. If the person wants to run or dance, can not do it with crutches! The same principle applies also to rules in photography. Rules and exercises in composition and aesthetics are like crutches. It helps you to focus, to gradually learn basics and then when the time comes, you put the crutches gratefully down and start learning the dance of creativity. I know photographers who could put down the crutches, but they do not. The crutches are the spine of their work. Then they start to judge the art through the prism of their crutches. That’s fine, that’s a necessary stage in an evolution of every artist. The true problem appears when a photographer start believing his story filtered through the prism of his crutches, mocking some people and uncritically following others. I get an allergic reaction when I see a debate in the line of thought “What is art?” I read and hear many times about the success stories of breaking the rules. In my ears that sounds so pathetic as an athlete would go in hospital and start breaking crutches because he does not need them. And that is actually a certain modus vivendi in contemporary art work – Let’s brake rules! Artist whose work was conceived with a motif of breaking rules is actually putting the rules that were meant to be broken as the fundament of the work. And there is nothing wrong with that! My bottom-line is that if you start the dance, don’t do it so you could brake your crutches, do it as the next step in your process of learning how to perform the miracle of moving through time and space. It’s so much more fun and free!

PS: the bottom line is that rules in any craft are like crutches. Crutches are not meant to be for dancing or for walking. They are for learning.

Written by Borut Peterlin

29 November, 2014 at 21:02

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