Posts Tagged ‘wet plate collodion’
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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.