On February 18th and 19th, four of us completed a wet-plate collodion workshop with Quinn Jacobson in Denver. Jeanne Jacobson was there too, helping with production, and cleaning of the glass plates. (She’s the master glass plate cleaner). Also there were students Mark Olwick from Seattle, Jessyel Gonzalez from Boulder, and Vivian Keulards from outside of Denver. Kyleigh Morgan came down from Boulder to assist also.
Day One was mostly introductions, and some intense talk about life and photo motivations and goals, and then after lunch, we dove deep into collodion chemistry lessons and safety precautions. By Day Two, we hit the ground running, pouring our own quarter plates, and actually making photographs. Each of us probably shot four or five images by day’s end, followed up by the varnishing of the plates. The collodion can be applied to either black aluminum, clear glass, black glass, or black plexiglass.
Quinn’s teaching style is second to none. He’s encouraging and energetic, knowledgeable about the chemistry, but also has a big heart and a strong passion for people and portrait-making. (Right down my alley!) Below are two images that I made on Sunday, followed by some color production-photos that show the studio and the mechanics of the workshop. To anyone contemplating the steep curve into collodion, I highly recommend Quinn as a teacher and a guide. He’s generous, open, and eager for people to learn the process.
Here is a video feature on Quinn, and wet-plate, by a local Denver TV station. There is a part two link, at the bottom of this page.
My second frame. Window light, with 1840's Darlot lens. Four second exposure. Stereo Tailboard camera. Talent: Kyleigh Morgan.
Third exposure, using black-light flashlight. Darkened room, forty second exposure. Talent: Kyleigh Morgan.
Quinn's main studio table, where the pouring and the varnishing and the cookie-eating happened. Note the enlarged wet plates near the ceiling of the studio.
Main shooting room, with the cameras, dark box, and nice window light. From left: Quinn, Jessyel, Mark, Vivian.
The main table where the chemical mixing and the pouring happened.
Quinn with Jessyel, before they reamed out a traditional 4x5 film holder, and converted it into a quarter-plate holder.
These are the raw black aluminum plates. The collodion is poured onto these plates by hand, resulting in a "sheet of film". The proper term for these are Alumitypes. They can be quarter=plate, half=plate, or whole=plate. Whole plate is almost eight by ten inches.
Mark Olwick, donning his black rubber protective gloves, making his first pour.
Quinn's gigantic wooden camera, a table full of luscious rare brass lenses, and the covered 8x10, in the shooting room.
Pardon the reflections -- this is my favorite Quinn Jacobson image. This was a portrait of a young Nordic man, but the wet-plate tonality changed the coloration to darker skin. I love about seven different things about this image. (Photographed on the wall, behind glass. Sorry).
Quinn, Mark, and Vivian under the rubylith safelight, in the darkroom, where we developed and fixed the plates.
Quinn being photographed by Mark. Quinn slides his head into the neck brace. Exposure time is about four seconds, even with bright diffused light coming in the garage door..
Stacks of various sizes of glass collodion plates (Ambrotypes). Ready for shipping. the largest size that you see here is approximately 16x20 inches! That was the original glass plate that went into the camera!
Mark Olwick, with the tailboard camera, shooting a plate of Quinn.
The drying rack, after the plates have washed. From here, they'll be varnished over an open flame with a Spirit Burner.
This is the "portable" dark box, for shooting on location. The plates must be wet when exposed, so you only have about ten minutes from coating the plate to the exposure of the frame. The clock is ticking! Some people load this box into the back of their station wagon or SUV or Van.
End of the workshop: Quinn and Jeanne on Sunday night, ready to head home and relax.