Processing/varnishing more plates from Pittsburgh workshop. One image of Abby Kraftowitz, from the windowlight series.
We made it to Brooklyn last night. Set up shop today. Starting to varnish and process plates and files. Here’s an initial nice plate, 8×10, of Kristi Jan Hoover, in the back room of the Masonic Hall in Pittsburgh. I had a few issues at first with my Silver Bath, but I was working in Jason’s darkbox. It took a while to get acclimated. Also a second image of Jason Snyder below that. And then a scary picture of Abby, on the steps of the Steven’s apartment, with the afternoon night streaming in. Fourth image is a portrait of Steve; he now owns the Lodge that we worked in. He’s an architect and sculptor. He’s bringing the building back to life. We call this his “Charles Bukowski Portrait”.
We worked on this yesterday — a wet-plate portrait, and other images for my friend Melissa Greener.
Here are a couple of frames from short wet-plate sessions with Hollis Bennett and Kelly Koeppel and Griffin Norman, from yesterday.
Hollis just returned from his honeymoon. Objects from his travels in right-hand image: A piece of rock salt from Baja, Mexico. The hand is a salt shaker found in an abandoned house in Colorado.
We shot this today. My neighbor, from my old house on Gilmore Avenue — Bridgett McGuire and two of her four children. We shot all four children, but I just can’t make it work together yet. I like this image as a standalone. This is Sadie and Jed, with Bridgett. 8×10 collodion on metal. Part of the ongoing Mother Project. Feels like echoes of Julia Margaret Cameron. I can remember bumping into Bridgett at 8th Avenue Kroger on the day she found out she was pregnant with Jed, (bottom right).
Illustration shot today of my good friend Wolf Hoffmann, of the band Accept. 8×10 collodion on black metal.
Shot this today. Illustration with Jules Burciaga. 8×10 collodion on metal.
Shot this portrait of my friend Dane Carder today after lunch. Experimenting with shooting 8×10 HP5, but with the old 1800′s Petzval lenses. And this combined with a built blank plate from some wet plate that we shot today. Still learning…
I received these back from Chromatics last night. (What a great lab). These are 48″ on the short side. Tests for the collodion, to see how they would show large, instead of framing the original 8×10. If I continue with wet plate, I’ll probably show them large like this. Impressive at this size. I love faces.
Rachel Lehman, owner of Crema Coffee, downtown on 1st Avenue South, at their home in 12South. About six years ago, Rachel’s brothers set this tree on fire with fireworks, and almost killed the tree. Today it stands in this hollowed-up womblike state in their back yard. From the MotherProject. 8×10 collodion diptych.
A full day today with Lanie Gannon, her husband Rob, and their two children. I like this diptych of her two sons, Jack and Ki. More images added soon, of Nathalie, Rob, and Lanie.
Circa 1978, CBGB’s, New York City. Great face, great haircut.
Today, I was varnishing in the basement and came upon this large metal plate lying against the wall. I barely remember shooting it, weeks ago. It must have been a warm up plate. Something happened with the Silver Bath, and at the time I considered it a mistake, but today, it hit me in a nice way. Maybe an omen of my life in the past few years? Anyway, I copied it today and stuck it on the site. Sometimes, maybe some time has to pass before you can see something. Garry Winogrand used to talk about that. He’d wait for months, to process the film, in order to let his emotions fall away from the image itself.
We worked with this yesterday. Was trying to shoot thru the glass and see how the light gets bent and warped. Not sure it’s finished. I still have a rumble to mess with it more. 8×10 collodion, diptych. Nine inch petzval lens. Daylight. One minute and twenty second exposure. Strange chemical surprises happened yesterday; not sure why or how, but I like them.
We photographed another in our series of mothers and children today. Just starting the edit, but here are a few images to start.
We do not have to be stuck in the past — here’s a very exciting modern approach to a job. I understand his fear of shooting collodion on location, for a job. There are a million things to go wrong, and risk blowing the job. The full article is here; really fun approach, and nice result. More than one way to skin a cat.
Nice video and story about Harry Taylor, of Wilmington, North Carolina. Harry is a good man; he’s helped me a good bit in my search for strange lenses.
I watched this nice video today from a woman in Washington state. Her name is Dinah DiNova. She’s doing a kickstarter thing to go back to her hometown area, New Orleans, to keep shooting. Her pictures are quite nice. The video is especially good. I also love the background music; the dog is pretty bad-ass too. I think it’s a Rat Terrier; might be a good breed to consider. Will send her some money today; she’s very well-spoken about her work and her approach. I like when people take a more modern slant on the collodion process.
Here are some frames from today, from Allison Marusic’s Red Barn Roundup in East Nashville. We got great character faces all afternoon, but ran out of ambient light at dusk. Could have shot faces all night. We went back to the Dallmeyer 9″ Petzval on this project, to get in closer to their faces, and to throw the depth of focus to almost nothing.
Thank you to Samantha Angel for great collodion prep, and to Derrick Hood for the dark box design.
We had a breakthrough today, in how we pour and dry and coat the large 24″x28″ black metal plates. Much more uniform pours now. A couple weeks ago, I purchased several vintage glass pieces to work with — today was this large green vintage clear globe thing. I brought down a bronze sculpture that Buddy Jackson gave me for my 50th birthday, and we paired them together, along with some brush from the back yard.
Big breakthrough yesterday — we successfully poured collodion onto very thin, very transparent Vellum paper, and the image stuck. Today, more testing, and then to either contact print it in a contact frame, or else look for an 8×10 enlarger! But the texture of the vellum showing through the image is beautiful. But even weirder — the paper negative itself is something to behold — all curled up, and thin, and curled, and crackly, like some document from the 1800′s that was found in a family Bible or something. More to come… Fun. The whole process has this “Shroud of Turin” feel to it.
Update: We photographed my friend Diana today, to see what a face would feel like with the vellum. They’re hanging to dry now. Very exciting to see the texture of the image.
Results from a Test today. I leave Friday for Asheville, for a week-long workshop on Salt Printing, and I’m forcing myself to shoot a new wet plate image every day this week. Today, Jennifer Casale was drafted. (Samantha Angel was also there, in support, as always — pouring more plates, and running a fine darkroom. Thank you also to Derrick Hood for amazing ideas for camera fixes).
We hit a wall yesterday, pouring these large plates. It’s just insanity, trying to get the collodion poured evenly over the span of a 24×28 plate. And then these crazy artifacts all over the plate; unexplainable. I had one of the large magnolia leaves, painted with asphaltum, so i tried to photograph it with the large camera. It’s very inspiring to see the image projected that large on the “easel” of the camera. The inspiration lead to action, and we tried to make it happen. Two large plates, and one (maybe) keeper. That could be the end of it; back to 8×10 and real predictability…
Two days ago, I coated many of the found objects with Asphaltum, after failing with the black spray paint. (Bad chemical reaction). Again, my friend Gayle Stevens recommended the Asphaltum as a foundation base, to accept the collodion. Today, I gave it a shot, and we have our first image. I feel like I’m back in the 1800′s, and cheering wildly, for a barely noticeable cryptic photographic image. But progress is progress. It was a good day.
The found objects are painted with Asphaltum, and they take about two days to dry. It goes on very thick, like cold motor oil in January. And pitch black it is. Then, after drying, I pour the collodion onto the found object, and then build a custom “tray” for the Silver Bath out of Saran Wrap, to use the least amount of (expensive) silver. I’m afraid to reuse the silver, for fear it’s now contaminated after touching the found objects. Then I put the sensitized piece into the easel of the Large Camera downstairs, and pop the Profoto Flash. (2400 w/s). Then it’s developed and fixed normally.
Not sure where this is headed, but today, it’s very exciting.
We’ve had a few exciting and disappointing days this week. The upside: a radically new, well-built version of the Large Plate Camera, and we’re getting very close to a finished DarkBox in the Van, for shooting on location, and we have a new, freshly-painted studio in the basement for the 8×10 Sinar. The downside: I had this dream of coating, painting, and varnishing found objects, and then coating them with collodion, but today, we got only frustration and disappointment. But tomorrow is a new day.
[Update: Tonight received a note from S Gayle Stevens recommending use of Asphaltum, instead of paint. I met Gayle in New Orleans last fall at PhotoNOLA; an excellent artist, teacher, and photographer. So there is hope! Also tonight at dinner, I realized that I have to be grateful for days even like today. In the end, we did learn a lot.]
“Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.” – John Cage
Also, I take consolation that I’m not making daguerreotypes, since that seems to be much more challenging than collodion. Here’s a new video of master Jerry Spagnoli, preparing a daguerreotype.
We shot this yesterday, as a warm-up image for a session happening this coming Monday and Tuesday.
Further experiments today. Wet-plate, 8″x10″ Sinar, double exposed in camera.
Yesterday, we made three large plates of good friend Jimmy Abegg, here at my house with the homemade collodion camera. Three plates in three hours; not bad I guess. Thanks also to Samantha Angel for great assistance with the chemistry and the workflow. Everything about this process goes “against the rules” of how the real collodion guys do things, but we are learning as we go. Once you go up in size, and leave the traditional plexi compartment workflow, it all gets dicey. We had some silver issues; not sure why. We had some skimming issues; not sure why. Hopefully the varnish will cover over my mistakes. Below are the actual black aluminum metal plates, (24″x28″) that we load into the camera. Each one is a mono print; no negative, no copies (unless you rephotograph it).
Yesterday, we spent the day doing the first round of the fully large plates. The easel on the camera is now set for 24″x28″. It’s very limited what you can shoot with this camera; there’s no way to focus it, you just bring the subject forward and backward. I saw these faded, funky silk flowers in a junk shop, and somehow it just seemed right to practice with. Maybe it reminds me of my mother’s fading health; maybe that’ll be the theme of this first little test body of work.
Below is a bad iPhone snap of the first plate yesterday, sitting on the kitchen table. We had to sensitize it in a tray, (with agitation), but it worked. Everything about this process is beta test.
I am getting assistance from Samantha Angel, a fine art graduate from Watkins. She’s a photo major, just graduated, but she has experience and interest in wet-plate collodion. Without her help, we could not have done it yesterday. Everything is so large, it just takes four hands. I am thankful for her help.
So I guess we’re off and running. I have to keep ordering more chemistry and more plates, but we now have an established workflow. The frustrating thing about the camera is that it only points forward. You can’t tilt it up or down, or focus it, so that’s going to limit what I shoot. But maybe these limitations will be a good thing, in the end. Time will tell.