You Know What’s Old That Can Be Made New? Wet Plate Collodion Photography

Few things in this world have been able to stand the test of time like the wet plate collodion process. It is now more than 150 years old and can still be done today.

In this video, Matt Day meets up a buddy of his named Matt Seal to get a quick lesson in the wet plate collodion process. Both photographers are film photographers and located in central Ohio. Seal is a large format photographer who is an experienced collodianist while Day had never tried any wet plate photography. As part of his introduction, Day got to experience the process from both sides of the lens.  

As it happens, I too am good friends with Seal here in Columbus and have been fortunate enough to see the wet plate process multiple times. It is difficult to express just how visceral the feeling is of holding a photograph that’s been printed on aluminum or glass or whatever substrate it happens to be. In the video Day gets to experience the heat that comes from sitting just a couple feet away from some incredibly powerful lights aimed right at you with no diffuser to soften the blow. The effective ISO is approximately 3-5 so the amount of power required to light a subject is far more than the average photographer needs on a usual basis. 

Have you ever seen any tin types (printed on metal) or ambrotypes (printed on glass)? Would you like to have a wet plate of yourself?

Images used with permission.

James Madison's picture

Madison is a mathematician turned statistician based out of Columbus, OH. He fell back in love with film years ago while living in Charleston, SC and hasn't looked back since. In early 2019 he started a website about film photography.

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