I offer my clientele the opportunity to experience a photographic process entirely out of the ordinary; a slow and thoughtful means of producing images with a painterly, timeless quality. This process is a welcome counterpoint to modern digital photography with its instant and transient nature, and the digital ethos of altering images (in some cases almost entirely!) after the fact.
From a practical standpoint, there is currently no way in which to preserve digital images for extended periods of time. They are only as permanent as the technology on which they are stored and viewed. In contrast, wet plate technology that dates from the 1850's produced long lasting images that are still common finds – a testament to their longevity. Using the same wet plate process the portraits I make are a lasting tribute to the people in them; real and tangible with weight and texture, made to be passed on to the generations that come.
Sitting for a portrait created using a process dating from 150 years ago in this age of disposable digital images, is a unique and unforgettable experience. I make it my task to search for something in an individual's personality and interests to bring out in the portrait that when combined with the inherent beauty of the process create a true hand made, one of a kind image.
Wet plate photos are created on glass sheets of varying sizes but for portrait work the sizes are most frequently 4x5, 5x7 or 8x10 inches.
Using a combination of chemicals in the darkroom each plate is made light sensitive minutes before the exposure is made in the camera and then returned to the darkroom immediately after exposure for development — the light sensitive emulsion created in the darkroom must stay wet during the entire procedure, hence the name "wet plate" photography.
Part of the charm of the wet plate look is the inherent unpredictability of the process. The way in which the various chemical treatments flow across the glass plate in the darkroom create a texture and variation in the tonality of the image. The effect is not repeatable from plate to plate giving each photograph a uniqueness that is not available from any other photographic process.
The photo is visible for a preview within 10 minutes of the exposure but takes approximately a week before the emulsion has cured and the finishing touches can be applied to the glass plate. Print (paper) copies can be made, but the decision to make print copies must be made before the plate is finished and delivered.
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