Photography, Fine Art, Wet Plate Collodion, Alternative photography

Sort of good bye to Jure Breceljnik

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I can’t write any blog post before I don’t say goodbye to my dear friend Jure Breceljnik who has died last week. We studied together at Famu, Prague’s Academy and he was a great influence and great support for me. Oh, I borrowed his equipment zillion times and with his gear I’ve earned money for my own equipment. He was easily the brightest kid in the class, the kind of guy that sort things out. I remember at the age of 20 or so he started a festival World Young Photography and because he really pulled huge project together, a professor gave him an excellent mark 1, although he never saw any image from Jure that semester.

I remember our countless trips driving from Ljubljana to Prague and back, flickering of street lights, endless discussions about art and the plans that will we do for the eternity. The soundtrack was Nick Cave, Do you Love Me. I remember Austrian border control and our fears that this time they will not let us pass with very old and rusty car Zastava 101. Ja, ja bisschen rustig aber sehr kunstlig… I’m sure that still doesn’t make any sense, but it got that police officer smile and let us go our way with that dubious car.

In 1994-1998 when we studied photography, there was no college for photography in Slovenia and we needed to go abroad, so few of us coming from Slovenia, we bond firmly like brothers and sisters. We were helping each outer as much as we could.

I remember one anecdote. Jure asked us to make a group photo of us, but we had to be nude and he assured us that nobody will see this photographs, except teachers at the college. I didn’t care, but others were concerned. As it happened with this series of images Jure won Emzin’s award Photographer of the Year 1998 and the photo of us full monty was in every Slovenian newspaper, on TV and on the exhibition.

I drove first time to Prague with that car together with three friends, that I’ve just met. Jure was driving, Tina was in bad mood sitting in the front and with Blaž we were sitting at the back. As it turned out Blaž committed suicide in 2001, Tina committed a suicide few years later only Jure escaped the whirl of negative energy and became again creative and super productive, when he got married and became a father of half a year old daughter, his heart left him. The cause of his death is not yet established, since he died in Belgium and the autopsy wasn’t been performed yet, but from the circumstances it sound like the most logical conclusion.

Few years ago, Jure sold me his 4×5″ camera. The camera will remain focused, my friend, rest in peace. Let me finish this post with Nan Goldin‘s qute: “I used to think that I could never lose anyone if I photographed them enough. In fact, my pictures show me how much I’ve lost.”

Written by Borut Peterlin

23 July, 2015 at 23:47

Posted in personal thoughts

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Topshit photographer’s journal – July, 2015

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Dear topshit readers,
Here are some updates. I’ve just came back from family vacations and I don’t have a habit to post that my house is empty. Not that is anything to steal from it, but still.

What do you do for a living people are very frequently asking me. Hm… Not so easy to answer. Well, I do have two regular clients that all together make three to four monthly salaries per year but everything else is freelancing. I’ve been fortunate enough that I’m freelance photographer from 1998 and ever since I have burned only handful bridges, so people know me and I do not need to promote myself as a commercial photographer. The other Friday it was a crazy day. Three clients wanted to do the shoot in one day. Good, three flies in one stroke.

In the morning it was Janez Bršec, a poet. He wanted that I make a portrait of him for a cover of his book. I’ve done as he imagine it, but then I’ve made one more as I’ve understood it. He picked my version :-)

Next it was Corcoras quartet with and without actor Branko Jordan and then a solo portrait of Branko Jordan. At 3pm it was really hot, but we’ve met beside a river that offered some fresh breeze. I didn’t had any problems, aside some oyster stains on the edges, which I like in the first place.

The last shoot was in Ljubljana, that’s an hour drive from where I live. We started at 7pm and finished at 11 pm. Maja Smrekar is a contemporary artist dealing with futuristic visions of humanism. Or at least that’s my interpretation of her work. Nevertheless she explained me her new project. It’s a survival kit for 21st Century. It has many features, it could be a weapon, a tool, or protective gear. So my task was to illustrate her using the set. I was using Balcar studio flashes, a Profot Flash Feeder, some “nothing special” gadgets, excellent Nikon D4 and three lenses. Interesting thing is that the last picture was taken almost at midnight with full moon behind. I had to illustrate that the kit has also a feature to offer a shade, so I’ve used the moon as futuristic sun. I was asked if I could have a workshop on these kind of creative lightning, but with – pardon my French – digital photography. Of course we will, stay tuned.

Written by Borut Peterlin

14 July, 2015 at 00:17

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/

Topshit photography journal 16th of June 2015

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Tomorrow is a big day. I’m almost finished with my preparations for Vienna Photo Book Festival . I’ve cashed in all my chips and now it’s time to go. I’m going to Vienna with a Land Rover, my old-timer. Today I’ve bought Hi-Lift Jack and I’ve sorted the bed in my Land Rover. As a huge fan of Top Gear, I’m planning to do Topshit Gear Special and I’m planning to record my trip as I do, with emphasis on photography and art. The book Zen and The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance is my inspiration.

I’m not doing this just for the fun of it, but I’m celebrating a new milestone in my photography path. I finally reached the destination after four years of intensive work. Six years or so I’ve seen an exhibition of Sally Mann in London Photographer’s Gallery and I’ve decided there on the spot I want to learn this witchcraft of collodion. It took me more then a year to find Miša Keskenović, who introduced me into the craft and another year to have met Mark Osterman in person. At George Eastman House I’ve seen original albumen prints of Eadweard Muybridge, France Scully Osterman, Mark Osterman and many others. I knew that I want to make a project with it. Albumen print process is in principle very simple process, but if you want to have rich tonality with clear white highlights and deep blacks, it’s very difficult. On top of everything I see my future artwork only in wet plate negative, that is much more difficult to do, then ambrotypes or tintypes.

Practitioners of wet plate collodion process know that the most difficult thing of all is the workflow. It’s one thing to make a good plate (either positive or negative) and it’s completely another thing to be able to do it in whatever situation it is. I bought the Land Rover so I could perfect my workflow and master the process so well that it becomes intuitive and I can focus on the photography itself not thinking on the process.

In the road I’m taking I’m celebrating that. I’m celebrating the past four years of learning and tackling the process and now I feel the process is very natural to me, I’m relaxed and I have plenty of energy to focus on the aesthetic and art. In this road I’m celebrating the fact that I’m making prints that are the best prints I’ve done. I love them so much, I can’t stop looking at them. I know I’ve reached the milestone of learning the craft. Now I can fully focus on my art, on the concepts, on ideas I want to share through the medium of photography.

Here are some random images I’ve done lately. Captioned.

Flying with a glider plane Blanik L-13

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Sunday was a good day. 15 years ago me and my wife (girlfriend at the time) we took a course for glider plane and yesterday we celebrated our 20th anniversary at the airfield. This is my first flight after six years at very bumpy weather. Flying is like riding a bicycle, you never forget, but still an instructor is good to have.

Written by Borut Peterlin

9 June, 2015 at 09:33

Posted in Uncategorized

Two collodion workshops in the centre of the world!

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Ciao tutti,
here is a video on location scouting around my town of Dolenjske Toplice, Slovenia, EU. I’m planning to make two collodion workshops, a basic and advanced one. Please check the link on my site for detailed program.

I’m embedding also a video from the workshop that I had in Berlin, about a year ago where I’ve explained the content of the workshop.

Retouching of wet plate collodion negative

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A month ago I was in George Eastman House in Rochester on a workshop of glass negative retouching. I made a personal resolution to do a pilgrimage to GEH once a year, as it’s was very inspiring experience to learn from fantastic mentors, Mark Osterman and Nick Brandreth . Furthermore at these workshops you are invited in the GEH’s collection where examples from history of photography are presented.

This week I hadn’t had any commercial work so finally I found time to try my new tools. At the workshop we all received a retouching kit with several brushes, graphic pencil, sand paper, several varnishes, powders, razor blade, magnifying loupe, collodion glass negatives to be retouched and a folder with read on the subject. So neat! GEH’s workshops are so well organised!

Retouching basically means drawing and I do not know how to draw or better I have still much to learn about drawing. Nevertheless I’m satisfied with the results presented in the video. Of course, retouching of eyes is the most difficult thing, but my clumsy retouching is what makes the image scary. If you look at the albumen print from a retouched negative, you would never guessed that it’s retouched, if you would not see it doing and if you were not an expert in retouching. I trust my wife’s opinion, she is very cruel in her judgement toward my work and she said it’s OK. And her opinion with all due respecte overrates Mark Osterman’s opinion, which I know it’ll be critical. I totally follow his teaching, but on the aesthetic point of view we often respectfully disagree. I love his work, perfect in any view, but you see my character is different. I’m not a tidy person, I don’t find my plates messy. I could make them totally technically perfect, but I welcome some stains on corners of my plates. Like my sink, it’s not dirty! It simply isn’t! Yes it does has many silver stains and I will not clean them with aggressive chemicals, because that would just be Sisyphus’s work! So under topshit doctrine, cleaning a sink basically means irresponsible pollution of environment and consequently burning in hell! Ha!!!

Where was I?
I learned a lot at this workshop. Like I’ve down hundreds of salt prints already, but observing Mark making salt prints I’ve learned many small tricks. One of it is the following. For sensitising salt paper we usually use cotton ball and then we trow it away. What Mark does is after senzibilisation he squeezes the remaining silver nitrate into a jar and then recover this polluted silver. How brilliant is that?! Just think how much silver nitrate is thrown away with filtering, sensitising and so on? In a month time with this practice I saved almost one decilitre of silver nitrate! I can’t write all the tips & tricks I’ve learned from Mark, since that would be more suitable for a book, then a blog :-)

Let me finish this blogpost with a very comforting information that if with retouching you screw up the negative, you can undo it! For instance. If you add too much graphite on your negative, you can wipe it away with fine powder of a cuttle fish. That’s the white powder I was using in the video. With it you can remove unwanted retouching. You can also do the more drastic measure like removing whole varnish from the negative and with it the mistake you’ve made. Remember, the retouching is not happening on the collodion, but on the varnish.

That’s the main difference between dry silver-gelatine negatives and collodion negatives. Silver-gelatine negative can be scratched into emulsion whereas collodion has very very thin layer of silver (that’s what it makes it the sharpest photography medium ever) and if you would try to scratch silver from collodion negative, you would scratch it right trough.

So, Mark gave me also information on collodion-chloride paper and when I was at home, I try it, but I haven’t dry the paper sufficiently and the collodion-chloride paper got stuck on the collodion negative. I basically ruin it, the negative can not be used anymore. Then I took alcohol, diluted it to 85% and start washing the negative in the alcohol. The varnish dissolved and with it also collodion-chloride emulsion. This is not the work for light hearted one, because you can easily ruin the negative, especially if the collodion used for the negative was old. Old collodion is fragile and lost it’s flexibility and therefor it’s very fragile. There was a small chance that Mark was using very old collodion, so I washed the varnish away and revarnished the plate again. Now I can retouch it again.

The two photographs that I’ve made are available for purchase on Ebay. I added also the third one, but this one is from unretouched negative. I made it later then the video, my wife says that it’s my best photograph and so it is. You don’t want to argue with my wife, OK? Trust me on this one!!!

Please follow the link bellow. I’m blogging for already nine years, I’ve wrote more then 1000 blog posts and I’m receiving emails to publish more, make more videos. I would love to, that would be my dream job, but as a professional photographer, I need to make a living and support my family first. That said, if you would consider to give me a tip for the videos I make and the information I share, it would be most appreciated. You can tip me via Paypal and my paypal account is
Thank you.

Written by Borut Peterlin

14 May, 2015 at 10:01


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