… so why do they call it a wet plate ?

… simple, because it’s a plate covered with some wet and rather smelly chemicals that is placed into the camera.

There is something incredibly alluring about the smell of darkroom chemicals, to those that are not into traditional ways of working the wiffs emanating from a room that’s been turned into a photo lab can be somewhat unsavoury and will test the tolerance of many a household occupant but to all of us who are hooked into spending hours fumbling about in dimly lit environments with an element of uncertain outcome the aromas are inspiring, intoxication and totally addictive.

Collodion is one of the more pungent substances, well, to be precise it’s the ether and acids mixed in that gets the nasal passages really twitching. It’s not that the smell is on its own alluring, it would hardly be the product in an over pretensions christmas tv add using an A list model but it’s the association of an aroma that draws us in. Whenever i get a smell of the collodion mix it takes me head first into my darkroom, putting on the protective gloves, pouring the plate, final check on the camera before an exposure time of ..  ‘ooh, that feels about right…” then the development to see what we get … which can at times be far from anticipated.

Like all traditional processes it’s a totally tactile process that can be fraught with challenges but offering rewards that are un matched with pixels and ink. There are many days when i question ‘why am i doing this ?’, then in contrast there are times when I cannot understand wanting to use any other photographic technique, it’s something of a rollercoaster ride.

Life is a question of striking a balance so working in a variety of mediums helps us fully appreciate all aspects of our creative outlet and working with alchemy and paper helps ground us back to appreciating the essence of for me what photography is all about, ‘capturing an image that has some relevance and is presented and shared with a tactile physical medium’

If that means getting a little wet and smelly then thats fine by me, its all part of the experience.

King Penguin camera Tintype
King Penguin camera Tintype
Setting up 10x8 camera for Neil Thomson capture
Setting up 10×8 camera for Neil Thomson capture
Wet Plate Collodion Chemicals
The wet and smelly stuff – Wet Plate Collodion chemicals

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