Navigating the Mysterious Wet Plate Collodion Process
Posted on March 25, 2014
On this beautiful Saturday in March I find myself standing in a photographic darkroom with protective goggles and gloves trying to balance a glass plate on my fingertips with one hand while carefully pouring with the other hand a chemical emulsion that will coat one side of the glass plate. When I finish coating the glass plate I place it into the section where film would normally go. Finally when the coated glass plate is in place I have about 20 minutes to shoot a picture, run back to the darkroom, pour developer and water and hope that I captured an image. Sounds like I have traveled back in time to the 1800’s, but alas I’m attending an awesome workshop run by Lisa Elmaleh at Penumbra Foundation| Center for Alternative Photography located right here in NYC.
I have been wanting to try the Wet Plate Collodion process for making photographs ever since I’ve seen the works of such photographers such as Sally Mann, Carleton Watkins and Henry Jackson (to name a few). I really didn’t know what to expect when I signed up for this 2-day workshop but after taking this class taught by Ms. Lisa Elmaleh I was ready to sign up for another class. As an instructor Lisa Elmaleh totally rocks.
She’s not only brilliant in the field of alternative photography, Photo District News named her one of its upcoming and emerging photographers in 2013. You can read the article by clicking here, PDN She has also won numerous fellowships in photography as well as exhibited her work across the country. She’s warm and most of all encouraging. After viewing her wonderful photographic body of work, (you can see it by clicking here Lisa Elmaleh) achieving beautiful Wet Plate Collodion prints such as Elmaleh’s, (click on the following names to read and see more of these artists’ works) Mann’s or Watkin’s takes a lot of patience, practice, intuition and did I say patience.
The following are a couple of photographs to give you a before and after feeling to the Wet Plate Collodion Process. These two ladies are Molly and Laura. They were Ms. Elmaleh’s assistants. They were pretty awesome, patient, professional and helpful. As you can see they posed for the photograph that I have at the start of the blog.
Both photographs were done on tintype which uses the same method for coating a glass plate but instead of glass it’s a thin sheet of iron coated with a dark enamel.
And you can even chat with the executive director Geoffrey Berliner who clearly enjoys dropping by and meeting the students.
So if you are looking to venture out and enhance your photographic experience I would highly recommend this or another class at this fine learning center. I’m really happy there is a place like this where you can still step back in time and experience photography the old magical way.