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Wet Plate Collodion

Wet Plate Collodion is an early photographic process invented by Frederick Scott Archer in 1850 and used widely until the end of the century. It produced a sharp image that could be used to make an unlimited number of prints. However it has one major disadvantage. The entire process has to be completed before the plate is dry. So the plate must be prepared, exposed in the camera and processed in about 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the temperature and the weather. This means that a darkroom must be carried along during a photographic trip. In 1800’s that would have been a horse drawn wagon. Today it would most likely be the bed of a pickup truck.

The ways that a picture can be ruined are many and varied, including contaminated chemicals, light leaks and even varying levels of humidity. Despite these drawbacks collodion is growing in popularity with modern day artists looking for something different.

One of these artists is Todd Vinson, a graduate of the Savannah College of Art and Design who fell in love with unique look and quality of collodion. Even though the process is unwieldy and the results far from certain, Todd said that good picture makes it all worthwhile. “I look at it like playing golf blindfolded”, he told us. “If you hit just enough shots to where you hear the ball hit the green, or even hit the edge of the cup, it’s just enough hope to keep playing again. And that’s what I get from collodion.”


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