- Alternative Processes
- The Look
Wetplate taken by William Lawrence in August 2016. Includes signed Certificate of Authenticity.
Dreams in Silver: The Body in Time is a set of nudes on tintype inspired by Alfred Cheney Johnston’s 1920’s nudes of the Ziegfeld Follies dancers. The series reflects the combination of old and new; Lawrence uses an 1850’s process for a 1920’s style of photography with modern lighting and 21st century women as subjects. He strived to create an atmosphere to the work that is abstracted from any point in time, hopefully giving a timeless feel to the work, at times edging into the whimsical realm.
What is wet-plate photography?
The wet-plate process was invented about 1850. Enthusiasts have kept the process alive and practiced as an “alternative photographic process” today. I use the same process as tintypes done in the 1860’s (except I use enameled aluminum plates rather than iron plates) – many tintypes from that era still exist today, so I expect these photographs to last longer than I do. I do, however, recommend that the tintypes be kept out of direct sunlight.
The collodion process is most sensitive to blue and UV light – this gives a unique look to the plate that is one of the reasons that I love this type of photography.
Recipes for the collodion, developer, silver bath have been translated and if necessary updated from the original manuals, allowing me to make my working chemicals from scratch. I start by pouring salted collodion on to an aluminum plate; this plate is then sensitized in a bath of silver nitrate, which results in a light sensitive emulsion similar to film. I expose the plate with my view camera, and then immediately develop and fix the plate. The whole process from pouring the plate to developing it must be completed in 15-20 minutes. The plates are sensitized and developed in my portable darkroom, so I can do the photography in studio or in the field.
Since the photograph is taken on an aluminum plate, it is ideal to display as a unique object on a stand rather than framing. The plates are also suitable for framing or display in a shadowbox if desired. I tend to display them using a small wooden easel as a stand, so the photograph can be displayed immediately upon receiving it.