Continuing my interest in the “wet plate collodion process”, I enrolled for a masterclass by the master of the process himself: Luther Gerlach. He’s a true master on wet plate photography and his work is currently hanging in the White House as part of President and Mrs. Obama’s art collection. Gerlach’s work has appeared in Architectural Digest, American Photographer, People and View Camera Magazine, and exhibited at over two-hundred art festivals. He has won major awards at Cherry Creek, Coconut Grove, Tampa Bay and Salt Lake City.
Celebrity clientele include also Cameron Diaz, Kate Hudson, Nick Nolte, Bruce Willis, Michael Wilson, Oprah Winfrey. The class was given 14th and 15th April, during the 1st European Collodion Weekend, at the FotoAcademie Eindhoven.
Amazing to see how Gerlach’s experience managed to get such a beautiful image on the first try… and even more amazing where the images taken with a mobile darkroom in the forests around Eindhoven. A short movie of the class can be found below:
For some time now I have been interested in the wet plate collodion process, checking out websites from photographers using the technique (one of the more famous photographers using this process is Sally Mann), and reading blogs / watching movies on Youtube trying to find out the details involved. It seemed however so complicated I almost gave up… until I saw a workshop for this process organised by the Antwerp Fotomuseum: of course the same day i enrolled.
And finally the moment was there: 2 days of pure photographic joy employing this technique. I love workshops like this: they make something that looks impossible well… not easy but at least do-able. The most complicated about the process is the chemistry (with some quite dangerous chemicals such as cadmiumbromide, kaliumcyanide, etc…), but once the products are ready the technique is (more or less) a breeze (for the ones used to large format photography). What amazed me most is the remarkable sharpness (due to the fluid emulsion) that can be achieved with this 19th century process. Agreed, although some dare doing it, it does not look like a technique to use in the field, since plates have to be made lightsensitive in darkroom and then photographed/developed within approximately 10 minutes – hence the term wet plate. For studio work however it looks like a very nice process, yielding fantastic results. Below some pictures taken during the workshop (last 2 pictures show collodion plates photographed and developed by myself, and quite proud of it!):
I took as well a small documentary video of the workshop, to allow me to remember the required steps during the photography and development process: