wet plate collodion
Wet plate is the process of capturing a photographic image onto a solid plate of glass (Ambrotype) or metal (Ferrotype/Tintype). The surface of the material needs to be sensitized with chemicals so it can record the image, but the whole process (including development) needs to be completed before the chemicals dry, hence the name ‘wet plate’. Early practitioners were often referred to as ‘alchemists’ due to the fact that they mixed variations of the original formula from raw materials, many of which were highly toxic!
I became a devotee of the process in early 2019 and loved the more considered approach required to produce images in this way. The process is being revitalised by modern day practitioners and numbers are growing.
At present there are fewer than 5000 active practitioners worldwide (although up to as many as 8000 may have tried the process in the modern era). I use the process made popular by the man accredited with its formulation during the 1850's, Frederick Scott Archer. The process has changed little since its discovery and demands a certain 'patience' to persevere with the fickle nature of the medium.
Characterised by their artefacts (Arty-facts) at the edges of the plates, the images are not 'perfect' in the modern sense of the term, however it is precisely these imperfections together with the originality of the images (there is only one), that makes them unique.
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