I had the opportunity last year to take part in a Wet Plate Collodion workshop with the lovely Laura Peters one of the few who refuse to let this process die out.
Wet plate as you may or may not know was invented in 1851 by Frederick Scott Archer. Collodion which was once used to close wounds on soldiers during the Crimean War, is used to coat the plates which are made from glass or aluminium, which then binds the silver nitrate to the surface. The process became obsolete during the 1880’s with the introduction of dry plate. This allowed photographers to store their plates for developing later on, rather than immediately having to develop them, when using wet plate. It meant that they didn’t have to take the darkroom and chemicals along when photographing, and only the large format cameras (which are heavy enough) accompanied them.
As the name suggests the plates are wet, during the whole process of preparing, exposing and developing and is one that takes time and patience to produce the end result. It is process driven and part of the fun involves the preparation.
During a full day I produced six plates on glass and kept two of them minus the black backing to leave them as negatives rather than a positive. I used one of them for my salt printing which I will share with you on my next blog.
I am never one for conforming to the laws of the land, I like mixing things up and you will see that my plates are not perfect in any way shape or form. There are lots of scratches, some deliberately added some from mishandling. There are dust particles which have accumulated over time and there are other imperfections. However this was a fun day for me and all of these imperfections represent me and are the opposite of the perfect day that I had completing this exciting technique.
So here are four of my plates, I hope you enjoy them!
The images once developed are sprayed with black paint on the reverse to produce a positive image. This is then varnished with a mixture of ingredients, one of which is lavender oil which smells like my grannies, smalls, draw.
It is difficult to see the characteristics of a wet plate online but when you look at them in front of you they almost have a 3D quality to them. The subjects pop out at you with great detail. There is lots of focus fall off and vignetting around the edges and the focal point on my images is small creating a shallow depth of field.
I hope you enjoyed looking if you care to leave me some feedback it would really help me with future projects, so pretty please, start tapping those keys!!