The wet collodion process seems to be undergoing a remarkable revival. Modern materials can help a little – as well as the traditional glass and "tin" substrates, a lot of people are using black anodised aluminium to make positives. It's light, inexpensive, and comes with a protective film which can be peeled off just before use to ensure really clean starting position.
I was set off down this track by a chance encounter with a Bristol-based photographer working with wet plates on a beach. Ed Low, an art student, had come across the process and was determined to make something of it himself. Despite having little practical support from his tutors, he has been able to make remarkable progress as I discovered when I interviewed him on the beach in the middle of winter.
As if that were not enough serendipity, there is more to come. In June I was on holiday in Iceland, and went into the city museum in Akureyri just to see what there was. The first room I went into turned out to be a temporary exhibition mounted by the museum's curator of photography Hörður Geirsson. The walls were covered with very well made 10 x 8 ambrotypes he had taken this year in the city, together with the cameras and the portable darkroom which Hörður had made to do the work. He had taught himself the process, including attendance at a workshop in the USA, and made himself all the equipment needed. That includes a 24 x 24" camera for which he made everything including the bellows, which has a very nice original Voigtländer Euryscope No.7 brass lens. Like Ed Low, he has also converted the boot of his car to form a travelling darkroom. Hörður plans to re-take as many as possible of their 19th century photographs from the same spot, and using the same technology.
Whilst camera collectors are beginning to talk seriously about collecting digital equipment, practising digital photographers (at least some of them) are turning to the Victorian period's most successful photographic technology and reviving it for pictorial purposes. It's a strange world!
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An occasional and irregular blog, mostly of photographic experimentation and photographic history.
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