Today is funeral of Božena Pelikan, 95 year old youngest daughter of Josip Pelikan. I was privileged to spend some time with her, listen her advices how to do negative retouching, how to do portrait photography – properly and all the stories that were embedded in the old glass skylight Pelikan Studio. I’m glad I visited her just few days before her death. She had severe dementia, but she remembered me as the one who likes dogs! On her deathbed she was telling me how photography is a noble and nice profession. It has many downsides, but on the end of the day she is happy to be a photographer! This Saturday I have a portrait sessions in this studio, next weekend I have a workshop in the Pelikan studio. Božena lives in photography on!
Danes je pogreb Božene Pelikan, 95 letne, najmlajše hčere Josipa Pelikana. V čast mi je bilo poslušati njene nasvete kako se retušira steklene negative, kako se dela portretna fotografija, ampak ta spodobna portretna fotografija, in poslušati vse zgodbice prepojene s tem čarobnim steklenim studijom. Vesel sem, da sem jo obiskal par dni pred njeno smrtjo in kljub napredni demenci se me je spomnila, kot tistega, ki ima rad pse. Še na smrtni postelji mi je pripovedovala kako je fotografija lep poklic. Ima veliko slabih strani, a na konec koncev je srečna, da je bila fotografinja! V Studiju Pelikan, to soboto, zopet portretiram in naslednji vikend imam fotografsko delavnico. V fotografiji Božena živi naprej.
Dear readers of my blog,
I love teaching and I particularly love teaching collodion photography in the nature, so I came up with this program. There are eleven workshops, but actually I have one more for kids and one more for college students. Please follow THIS LINK and pay particular attention to the Photography Jamboree at the last week of July. It’s open public event, free of charge, based on volunteerism. The purpose of Photography Jamboree is to raise awareness of environmentalism through photography and through direct experience. I sincerely hope that the event will grow into a festival, next year. But that said I can not do it alone, I can do my photography alone, but not the festival of photography. I will do all in my power to gather a group of volunteers and with their generous help make an event that will bring people out of this hectic mad world and experience the peace of eternal forests. Please spread the word.
As you probably know I have done many workshops in my life, I even started and running a festival of documentary photography Fotopub for eight years. Even now I still have a workshop at least one every month. This week I had a workshop in elementary school for 8 year olds as a volunteer. Because I had many workshops for kids of different ages and tried different approaches, so in this post I will share with you the most effective way to introduce children to photography.
For children up to age of ten my workshop has three sages. First to present photography as a kind of magic, but a real magic, not a cheap trick! Secondly they have to do the magic by themselves and most importantly to bring something home to show their parents “the proof” they were actually making magic!
Simple? It is! There are many ways to do it, but let me show you how I’m doing it. Firstly I ask if somebody in this room has ever take any photograph? You always want to start with simple question, something that everybody thinks, oh, I can do this! The next one has to be a tricky one. Can you make your own telephone with a camera?
Then I explain that photography in its principle is very simple process, very much like cooking. And we all know that cooking is kind of magic, how else can our mothers transform carrot, that we all know it is inedible and horrible into such a delicious soup?
… and today we will do just that, we will do magic! I hand them “the magic paper”, which is basically plain silver-gelatin photo paper. They lay on it a leaf (they had a homework to bring a leaf) and press it with a piece of glass. Few minutes later they already notice that the paper is turning dark-blue colour. Of course I tell them not to touch it, we will look the lumen print on the very end! (Jill Enfield on Lumen Prints)
Then we go outside and everybody looks trough a view camera and notice that the image is flipped upside down and that although their colleagues all have right hand in the air, through camera it appears that they are waving with left arm! How could that be?
I ask them if somebody has ever seen the inside of a mobile phone or digital camera and always there is one kid (always a boy) that has seen whole lot of wires, cables, chips and other electronic stuff.
Then I ask if they want to see the inside of my camera, the old view bellow camera? Do you want to know the secret why is the projected image on the focusing screen turned up-side down and left to right? And everybody is getting so excited, but then I cover the camera with a black cloth, take away the lens, take away the focusing screen, look under the black cloth and make a silly face, being surprised what have I found out, then I remove the cloth and reach with my hand trough the camera.
They do not understand how is this possible that small mobile phone has so much electronics, whereas my large-format camera has only empty space. I explain them that the magic force in action is called physics! And the other magic force that record the photograph is called chemistry and let me show you how it works. I pull out of my pocket a film holder, we make a group picture. In the classroom I put the film in developing tank and ask one student to pour developer and the other to wipe any leak drops and take care of the timer.
I repeat that the photography is in its essence a very simple process and I take a candy-box and explain that this is a camera. Everybody laughs, but it is real camera obscure. We go in a tent, that is my mobile darkroom, load a pice of ordinary silver-gelatin paper and expose it on the window. We develop an image and sky is black, whereas a tree is white! How can that be, I ask?
We look at “the magic paper” with tree leaf on them on their desks and notice that the paper became dark. Why did it became dark, I ask? They are struggling with the concept that it became dark because it was exposed to the light. Then I ask them if it became dark because the paper was exposed to dark? No, in the classroom, light was turned on all the time. They came to a conclusion that it was actually the light that made the paper go dark! Then I ask them to look out of the window and ask which is brighter the sky or the tree and of course in reality the sky is bright and the tree is dark, whereas in the photograph we made with the candy-box camera obscure is just the opposite. They know the answer why it is so. Now it’s time to learn the new word: A NEGATIVE!
Meanwhile we developed and fixed the film of our group photo. We anxiously open the developing tank and long and behold, the photograph is actually a negative one! I say in amazement, that this can not be their photograph, since there are only black people on the film! Of course they recognise themselves, but I ask them how come they have black faces on the film? One bright kid (usually girl) explains that we are looking the same thing as it was the tree image from the candy-box. Correct, what is the name for it? The negative!
We speed dry the negative with a hairdryer and then we make a contact copy in the darkroom. It is great because the first contact-copy photographs are either too bright or too dark, but then we adjust exposure and the last prints are perfect! Why were those prints too bright? How did we solve it later?
There is another test while exposing. I say I will time 20 seconds with my watch while they count twenty seconds quietly. When they will think the 20 seconds has passed, they say twenty loudly! Then some of them are saying twenty too soon, some are too late, some are actually exact, but the result is not important, it’s important that they have a challenge how long does 20 seconds take. And keep the focus
After we develop the prints we are having a laugh how we look like. One photograph taken is a serious posture and the second one is a funny one.
At the end they go to their lumen prints that were exposing for an hour and a half and they see a beautiful photogram of a leaf. The photogram is still light sensitive, there is not enough time to fix and dry all of them, so they take the photogram home in their school-book, hidden away from daylight. At home they can show it to parents, but the photogram will eventually become totally dark. It is a magic paper nevertheless!
We finish the workshop with really hard questions for them. Like why is the paper sensitive to white light, but not to red light? I ask them if they can describe the spectrum of a rainbow, but in a correct order. On the end I say that red is at one side of the spectrum, blue and violet is on the other. I say one has more energy then the other, which one has greater energy red or blue colour? After few more suggestive questions we all come to conclusion that red light has less energy then white light, that is why the photo-sensitive paper, or our “magic paper” is not sensitive to red light. Then I ask them if they ever heard about infrared light? No, they have not. We can not see, smell, taste or hear infrared light, but we have a sense to feel it. How can we feel infrared light? (it’s heat of course) I finish with explaining that light is amazing energy and what we see is very very tiny part of the rainbow. I’m ending that there are infrared cameras that can see a person trough a wall! Just like Superman! I told you we will be talking about the real magic!
And this is how my one a half hour workshop for kids ends. That was on Wednesday.
In October and November I had 12 hour (six times 2 hours) long workshop for kids from 11 to 15 years. Our goal was to make 12 images for calendar that will be published in local newspaper Vrelec. I think this post is too long already, so let me just summarise how our workflow differed. First of all there was no analog photography, just digital photography with their cameras. I had one digital SLR with me, so the kid that had to photograph with a phone, suddenly had the best camera in the group. The first lesson was on observing. We walked down to the river and observe a particular stone in the river from one side, the other side and observing how is the scene changing. Where is the sky, how does the background changes, how does perspective changes, etc. From one point of view sones were backed by branches, whereas from the other point of view we did see a perspective of a river stream in first plane, stones in the middle and sky in the back. Trees were on opposite banks, making nice framing.
About this workshop let me tell you that we learned a lot about postprocessing and Lightroom and Photoshop. Because we had only one computer, the others were bored, so I gave them a task to photograph a drop of milk. I will not explain you how have we done it, we did it very simple, that one person triggered the camera, the other person dropped the drop and with the other hand triggered a handheld speed light flash. But HERE are tons of videos on the subject.
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!
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!
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
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!
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!
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.
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!
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.
Of 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!