Wet Plate Photography: How People Are Still Using It & Why

Even though digital photography is still fairly new, there has already been a small resurgence in film photography. Recent movements such as Lomography and The Impossible Project have kept film flowing through the younger generations, while a great deal of the older generation has never converted to digital. So you may not be surprised to hear that film is still alive and going. But you may be surprised to hear that there has been a resurgence in wet plate photography. In the video, photographer Ellen Susan discusses the history of wet collodion photography, contemporary artists using the process, and how you can get started in wet plate photography yourself:

Wet plate collodion photography is not for the impatient. The process of making photos with wet plates is very time consuming and, basically, really inconvenient compared to modern technologies. So why would anyone want to take photos with this technique? Susan says it’s more about the process and less about the subject. Wet plate photos have a particular style to them which can’t be reproduced (except, perhaps, for a great deal of digital post-processing).

wet plate photos

Two soldiers photographed using wet collodion photography

“There are two ways that the process is being used now. One is for the detail and the beauty and the perfection, and the other one is the exploitation of the process artifacts and making the process almost the subject of the photograph.”

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One Comment

  1. Erik W. says:

    Ellen does a fantastic job of taking us through the history of the images and technology, but what fascinated me was her attempt to explain WHY these techniques are being reborn. My own opinion is that with digital images, you can snap away, produce thousands of images, and even if you Photoshop them endlessly, your own sensory interaction with the image, the chemicals, and the equipment is limited (nonexistent actually). I have pinhole camera pics that I took as a teenager in 1983 that fascinate me with their detail and focus, and yes, even flaws. It’s the answer to the question, how can photography regain its status as a human art in the age of 25 megapixel cameras, and computers, so that an individual image MEANS something to us again.

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