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Wet Plate Collidion, super fantastic fun time


The Corcoran used to have an alternative processes class, however it got canceled.  Out of disappointment I created a directed study for myself, with the intention to focus on the wet-plate collodion processes, dry plates, and other alternative processes if the first two did not work out.

This past week my ambitions led me to Rochester, New York to participate in an introduction Wet-plate collodion work shop taught by France Skully Osterman and Mark Osterman.  To say the least it was amazing.  It felt like being back in high school after developing my first print ever.  I still remember what it was a picture of too.

I will give a brief description of what the processes is just to give an idea, I could go on and on and get really technical, but I will spare you the grief.

The processes is done on prepared glass plates of different sizes and colors.  Collodion was originally discovered and used for medical purposes.  It is essentially a very flammable plastic that works well to adhere to things.  If you have ever used the “new skin” product on your cuts its base is collodion as well.   Once the specific photographic collodion is prepared and poured on the plate the plate is then placed in a silver nitrate bath for sensitizing.  After some time elapses in the bath the plate is placed in the enlarger or camera, exposed, developed and fixed in special baths.  For finishing the plate it must be dried and varnished to give it some layer of protection. While the plate is still wet it is very fragile and can completely lift off the actual plate, so cleaning and preparing the plate can be really important.

Ambrotype on ruby glass

Ambrotype on ruby glass

It was epic.

I made five plates and if anyone would like to see a physical plate or just have any question I would be more than happy to show and share anything.

here is a link to the Osterman’s website:

Also if anyone is interested, I would definitely road trip up there again.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. 09/25/2009 15:08

    What a great opportunity – so glad you could share it with us. Can we see more photographs here on the blog?

  2. arisslater permalink
    09/27/2009 01:52

    yes. I will just have to scan them in……and also when I have the processes working for me at school I will have lots more. but for now I have only what I made at the workshop

  3. ninethings permalink
    09/28/2009 13:22

    Before reading when I was scrolling through the new posts I saw the ambrotype and thought “hm, that kind of looks like aris”

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