The Internet is inexhaustible source of information and inspiration. A few days ago I came across an artisanal type of photography that is so utterly un-digital: collodion wet-plate photography.

This method was developed around 1850 and the photosensitive medium is a glass plate which is coated with a mixture of collodion and other elements that gets inoculated in a bath of silver. The plate is then exposed in a plate camera and is not allowed to dry, therefore „wet-plate”. The whole process is very time consuming. This great video illustrates the effort:

The sensitivity of the wet-plates is very low (ISO 1) therefore a long exposure is necessary and the model needs to sit or stand very still. Chairs with headrests facilitated the model to keep still in historical times. This inertia is partly responsible for the strange look and rigid facial expressions. No spontaneous expression, no snapshot possible. For me this impression, along with the peculiar coloring and the  craftsmanship makes it so attractive.

The glass plate is a negative image that appears as a positive, when viewed against a dark background.

You find a couple  photographers on the web that practice this ancient form pf photography:

This freak modified his van into a giant camera:

This all reminds me of the times when I used to have my own dark room. What to do when no plate camera is around and no lab available? Photoshop? Why not?! I studied the look of collodion wet-plates, browsed my images for suitable motives and worked on them in PS. As the steps are always the same I created a PS action, after which I only have to teak the different layers to match the actual image. Using textures adds the vintage look. Web resources for free textures:

[Textures can create interesting looks but this is another story, I might blog about in the future].

Here some results, more in my Portfolio:

I’m quite happy with the results but I want to to the “real” thing, work with my hands… I might sign-up for a workshop…