June 29, 2010

The art of the machine | The Japan Times Online

The art of the machine | The Japan Times Online

What Used Yo Be, Just Isn't So Anymore...

Music | Sudden Intake by The Black Dog

So as I move forward with the Wet Plate Collodion, I'm finding that my flaws are not as acceptable as they used to be. Other than merely capturing an image on the plate, I now want to at least have the knowledge in my head upon how to achieve the "almost" flawless plate. I still love the unpredictable nature of this medium, but seeing what others have accomplished, I know I'm not even close. This is a true test of my patience...

Earlier this week, Sherry came by and spent a few hours at the new North Light Studio. I'm getting to know the light better here and am noticing some of its nuances. So long as the wind doesn't pick up too much, I think I will get some great images over the upcoming summer months.

After finding that my red filter for the window in the garage is not up to optimum specs and finding my plates fogged, my new problem has been the random black lines that appear on the plate. This was driving me absolutely insane as I was trying to find the issue on the run... It wasn't til a day later and getting counsel from the ever helpful forum for Collodion that at least the issue was identified.

Yesterday, a model from the San Francisco area came to town and sat for me. I think is was good that I was working with a total stranger. Not only in terms of collaborating, but the fact that I didn't want to come off as a total idiot. I felt by the time we met much more confident in the Wet Plate Process and that I wouldn't make the same mistakes and have the issues I had before.

Well, as you can tell, I did have another issue come up, but I think it lies similar to the issue I had with the black lines... My next approach will be to have more Silver Nitrate on hand and use a tank as opposed to a tray.

There are so many things in this process that takes a lot of finesse and skill in order to come up with the perfect plate. I feel like at the moment, I'm just floating along and moving as the process takes me. I know where some of my attention needs to be, but the unknown areas are what I know I have to work thru to learn and find.

I have no choice other than to be patient and move...

June 22, 2010

A Solo Taste...

Music | Mad World by Gary Jules

I'm a virtuous person. My first foray into Wet Plates came over 2 years ago during an exhibition of alternative photographs displayed at the 23 Sandy Gallery at a show called Resurrection. There I got my first view of actual Wet Plates, both on glass and tin. Totally amazed at the final image, the resolution was unlike anything I had ever seen before. I had at about the same time decided to start shooting film with a large format camera as well...

A few months later, I had gotten together with Ray Bidegain, who showed me the process and allowed me to take a wet plate photo. Totally hooked, but without time or finances to get my own wet plate photography off the ground, I did all I could and learned what I could on the internet. I was also cursing Polaroid because of their decision to halt production of Type 55 film.

Fast forward to early March of this year. I had read about Wet Plate Day, May 1st to honor Frederick Scott Archer, the founder of the Wet Plate Collodion Process. I contacted Ray to see if he was going to participate and if so, if he had any room for me to be able to shoot a few plates of my own, with his help of course. I managed to take 3 plates home, 2 for me and one for my model. We were all pleased.

Shortly after that, I was able to go ahead and purchase a kit where I would be doing some remedial mixing of chemicals to do my own plates. Last week, I spent a good 3 hours shooting and coming up with seriously horrible looking plates. Without anyone to guide me, I called it a day and felt totally defeated...

Portland has not had summer, even though we are beyond mid June. Clear sunny days has been a rarity, which has halted my pursuance of the elusive wet plate... Finally, today we had the sun coming in and out, but I was getting consistent light at my out door North Light studio.

My session began with hopeful thoughts of creating my first legible Wet Plate, but without luck, I merely picked up where I left off last week. Feeling defeated, I took a break and looked at the trash I created... I realized that was unintentionally fogging my plates and the most important step of putting the Silver Nitrate on the collodion and plate. A simple cardboard over my tray fixed that problem and I made a huge step forward! I still was having exposure problems and what was in my brain was not coming out on plate. Feeling hopeful again, I went against my better judgment and guessed at another exposure. My pour of the Collodion wasn't perfect, but usable. I felt so close I was not about to start over again. I'm still not a good judge of when to stop development. As I cleared the developer off the plate, I'm still not feeling good. Only when the images clears in the fix did I realize I finally reached my forbidden fruit.

About being virtuous... Patience...

June 09, 2010

The Return to Old School

Music | Stupid Girl by Garbage

I remember having this conversation a few years ago about how my film days of photography, I was so much more involved in not only my work, but the entire process. I labored over my darkroom sink out of plywood and marine paint, I created the table from which the enlarger sat just so, so I didn't have to strain while being in the dark room for hours upon hours... I did plumbing, some really make shift electrical solutions all with my own hands... Everything ended up being custom built, because you could! I remember asking a girl friend for a set of her stocking so I could make a diffuser to diffuse my prints, cut outs to make my burning and dodging tools out of hanger and card board...

Moving ever so close to the Wet Plate process has reminded me how much time and effort you need to put in for the process to be successful. It is true that much of the things I have created with my own hands could have been purchased off the shelf. However, under my own circumstance, I've had no choice but to relive those days where I am making my own tools and equipment to move forward. I like the idea that all that goes into the success or failure of the process is on my own shoulders.

Most recently, I've just finished fabricating my own wet plate holder... I love that in its own process to be created, I had to go thru a few iterations before I have come up with its final working version. Of course there will be improvements, but I'm quite happy with the outcome. Before the holder, I built 2 tanks to hold various chemicals in. It was the first time I worked with acrylics and solvent to weld the pieces together. I'll be making another work surface in the garage to set up my chemicals for when I use the side yard as a studio. Working in the yard and garage sound so much better to me than sitting at my desk in front of the computer...

June 06, 2010

Re-Acquainting with Time

Music | Nature Boy by John Coltrane

The closer I get to starting the Wet Plate Process, the more painful it is that I am not creating in the Wet Plate Process... I am very close and just need a few more important things I didn't know I had to have.

In the mean time, I've been processing rolls of 2 1/4 film that I've shot thru a 1951 Rolleiflex camera. Yes, more film along with the recent 4x5 I've been shooting as well. I have to say I am enjoying being down in the basement, mixing up chemicals, measuring out xtol, fixer... I'm sure as I get a little more organized, I won't even mind the scanning process.

I am getting so much more fulfillment in what I've been shooting lately, even if it is a quick shot in between conversations in a café or hanging out with a friend in the backyard. Time slows down again and I like that...

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