Second Photoshoot with Alice Crowe: Wet Plate & Serendipity

April 01, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

Alice Crowe Tintype No. 2

I had the privilege of collaborating again with the amazing Alice Crowe. She's rapidly becoming one of my favorite models to work with because of her professionalism, patience with my slow photographic processes, and great conversation during shoots.

For this shoot, we split our time between my living room and my garage studio. I'm still trying to dial-in my wet plate collodion process and garage studio lighting, and that'll be the subject for a blog entry of its own.

Based on the advice of two wet plate photographers I trust, I decided against using Old Work Horse collodion from UV Photographics for this shoot. UV Photographics makes a quality product, but given my struggles with lighting I decided to try mixing a different collodion recipe called "Old Dead Bride." Old Work Horse uses cadmium bromide, ammonium bromide, and ammonium iodide. Old Dead Bride uses cadmium bromide and potassium iodide instead.

John Coffer's Old Work Horse Recipe

240 mL USP Collodion
200 mL Grain Alcohol (190 proof Everclear)
200 mL Ether

1.6 g Cadmium Bromide
1.4 g Ammonium Bromide
5.0 g Ammonium Iodide

Old Dead Bride Recipe

120 mL USP Collodion
80 mL Grain Alcohol (190 proof Everclear)
80 mL Ether

1.7 g Cadmium Bromide
2.0 g Potassium Iodide

Well, I can say that the Old Dead Bride collodion does appear to be somewhat faster than Old Work Horse. But I found that it poured "funny" -- dried thicker and with waves. I'm attributing this to my errors in mixing and/or pouring, not the recipe itself. Regardless, the plates that I made have problems that look like development but are actually related to my collodion pours. I've actually been making a lot of progress in my developer pours, and can get really even development most of the time now.

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I believe in embracing serendipity, kismet, or simple dumb luck in my photography. I don't set out to make mistakes, and the previous sentence shouldn't be read as excusing poor technique. To the contrary: I try to learn from my mistakes and avoid making them where I can. That said, some of my favorite photographs I've made over the years have been flawed; I've just gotten lucky some of the time in making mistakes that are interesting or beautiful.

I also think that it's important to remember that my art is hand made. Because it's hand made, and mostly analog/film, it's going to be imperfect. If one is looking for sterile perfection, one can shoot with the latest and greatest technology. And, increasingly, one can forego the photographic process entirely and just ask an AI image generator to make a beautiful picture. Flaws and imperfections can sometimes be pretty, but they're always valuable when they show that an image is genuinely hand made. There's value in hard work, and in working hard with one's hands.

 

 


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