TOPSHIT PHOTOGRAPHY blog

borut peterlin, slovenia, ambrotype, Portrait photography, Wet Plate Collodion, Analog Film photography

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

A mysterious albumen print size 27×35″ (70x90cm) from 1860’s, by authors Benque & Sebastianutti

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A person called me almost a year ago saying that he has a photograph from 1860’s and it’s 70x90cm in a massive frame. I’ve told him that it’s impossible, at the time they were making only contact copies from a negatives and so only rare photographs were larger than 8×10″ (20x25cm). I’ve seen an original albumen print from Eadweard Muybridge in George Eastman House that was 20×24″ (50x60cm) size, so I couldn’t belive that this person owns such a huge albumen print.

It took me quite some time to visit this person, still not believing that the print could be a real vintage albumen print from 19th Century. But I was shocked when I realized it’s a real authentic albumen print from Sebastianutti & Benque studio in Trieste. They were working together between 1863-1869 and then also between 1879 and 1901. In the history of Trieste says:

“In 1865, Francis Benque get the first official recognition – a gold medal of Merit – in Germany at the International Exhibition of Photography in Berlino. In Germany buys a device for the creation of life-size photographs that will allow the study of offering , the ever more demanding customers Trieste to be immortalized in portraits”

The device that is mentioned above is a solar enlarger. An enlarger that capture and project sunlight to a negative that is projected to a sensitized albumen print. A very rare device. I saw one in Rochester, USA and it is very complex system of shafts, mirrors and lenses. So this is very rare albumen print.

The print has a mysterious history. The owner that will remain unnamed told me that his grand father has hidden this photograph in an inside wall of his house. When the house was about to be torn down, that’s 85 years later, his grand mother warned his uncle that something was hidden in a wall, so they opened the wall and saw this albumen print wrapped in a leather, with few other images. The true value of the print will be known when we establish who is the person on the photograph. The owner claims that this was a grandmother of his grand father.

I don’t know much about history, but I reckon that this must be some kind of royal person on the photograph. First of all that print must costed a fortune, then I think that the necklace might be from black pearls, also the frame proves that it’s a masterpiece of the 19th Century photography.

So the research I’ve done together with some friends yield the following results. Although the person on the photograph resembles Queen Victoria, it’s not. The queen had blue eyes. Princess Alice of Hesse looks very similar, but the princess died at age 35 and the person on the albumen print looks much older than that. The third clue that I’m pursuing is that the person on the photograph might be Princess Aglaë von Auersperg. Who knows…

If you would know someone who could help identify the person on the photograph, I would be very grateful. My email is borut@borutpeterlin.com

Here are some clues.

But the story doesn’t end there. Here are some more mysterious photographs from the same owner. I think that this is German Royal Family.

Written by Borut Peterlin

19 November, 2014 at 01:35

A theater performance Pars Pro Witkacy / Anton Podbevšek Teater

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Beside the collodion photography that I do, I make a living also with other kinds of photography. This photos, video and editing I’ve done last week. A theater performance Pars Pro Witkacy produced in the theater Anton Podbevšek Teater.

Concept & choreography:
Magdalena Reiter
Performers:
Maruša Majer
Lada Petrovski Ternovšek
Magdalena Reiter
Dušan Teropšič

Written by Borut Peterlin

10 November, 2014 at 12:58

A wooden box for an ambrotype I’ve sold

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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.

Written by Borut Peterlin

6 November, 2014 at 17:57

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