Wetplate Collodion

Fine art photography using glass & metal plates in antique cameras.

Exploring this historical process and discovering the great look and feel possible with wet plate collodion.

Taking advantage of the restrictions of Covid-19 lockdown in 2020-21, I gave myself to learn how to make  Wet-plate Collodion photographs on glass (Ambrotypes) and on aluminium (Tintypes).

 

The process is a silver-process. The silver is absorbed into a layer of collodion on either glass (ambrotype) or metal sheet (tintype). 

 

These plates are not sensitive to red light/colours (orthochromatic) and will render images with an unusual tonality (compared to normal vision) and will produce unusual effects such as enhancing freckles in portraits and making tattoos disappear. Eyes often appear more keenly bright - often as a result of the shallow depth of focus of the old portrait lenses used.

 

I wanted to use the image capturing technology that was contemporary with the cameras I use from C1890-1910.

 

The wetplate collodion process was invented by an Englishman Frederick Scott-Archer in 1851 and superseded the Daguerreotype and Calotype processes.

 

As its name suggests the photographic plate is wet - and has to remain wet. Therefore the time frame for re-composing, shooting and processing is short some 10-15 minutes depending on the climate.

 

Each glass plate is thoroughly cleaned, edged with egg white, has collodion (cellulose, ether, alcohol cadmium bromide) poured on it. When this gets sticky it is put into silver nitrate (liquid that burns off warts!). Whist still wet this is put in the camera and exposed. This plate has developer - acidic, alcoholic, iron solution - poured over it and is then washed in water before being put into "fixer"- Thiosulfate when the picture appears fully. When dry the silver side is sprayed with black acrylic paint showing the image as a positive image. So many ways this can go awry - but that is the challenge!

As you can see, the process to produce and develop the photographic plate is quite involved - a good introductory overview can be found here:

Wetplate Collodion-Unblinking Eye

Some very useful links below:

A visual guide for beginners to making a tintype photograph

Rikard Österlund's Guide to Wet Plate Collodion - The Intrepid Camera Company

John Coffer,

Quinn Jacobson.  

Wet Plate – Collodion – An Introduction | A photographer Living in France

 

Attila Pasek workshops

http://attilapasekphotography.com/workshops/collodion/

Tintypes and keeping your Silver Bath happy – The Analogue Laboratory

Alex Timmermans Collodion Ambrotype wet plate Photography