Take That, Instagram!

So I was sitting at my desk yesterday when I heard from my friend Fred Fraser. He’s a brilliant photographer based in Vancouver who has been perfecting the craft of wet plate photography – also known as the collodion process. Here are samples of his work in this style.

The collodion process is an early photographic process that was introduced around 1850. Described as “a very inconvenient form” of photography, it starts out with the photographer cutting glass into plates to be used inside the camera. Then bromide, iodide, or chloride is dissolved in “collodion” (a solution of pyroxylin in alcohol and ether).  This mixture is poured on the VERY clean glass plate, and allowed to sit until the coating bonds. Any fluffs, dust or streaks on the glass, and the picture is ruined.

The plate is then placed in a silver nitrate solution, which creates another reaction (this is all very scientific and requires time, a respirator and a dark room). Once the reaction is complete, the plate is removed from the silver nitrate solution and placed into the camera while still wet. The photographer has to move fast and get the photo, because the plate loses sensitivity as it dries. It must also be developed while still wet. And that process requires even more chemicals.

Needless to say, this is a long, difficult process. But the results are fantastic.

Fred had booked someone for a portrait last night, but plans changed and they couldn’t make it. So he asked if I wanted to come by and have it done. How could I say no?

Understand that this is no digital photography. You get one chance. So the photo gets planned out in advance. How you be sitting. What props you will have in the photo. How long you can sit still. Because depending on how far you are sitting from the camera and what kind of lighting there is, you will have to hold the pose for 15 to 30 seconds to get the right exposure. And if you move during that time? The picture ends up blurry. (Blinking is allowed.)

We did two shots. It took about two hours, but that included wardrobe, make-up, cookies, gabbing, all that good stuff. Here is the result:

This whole process made me realize that photography has become so disposable. People don’t put the effort into it like they used to. I mean, how many baby books are now just Facebook albums?

This process was fantastic. And these pictures are keepers – if I do say so myself. The finished product, printed on glass, is a real keepsake. Fred has this method of sandwiching the glass so it protects the other piece of glass with the image on it. This is perfect for family or individual portraits and it really is a true artform. Thanks Fred! And thanks Liz for the cookies and my amazing feathered turban.

If you want to book Fred for a session, contact him through his website.



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4 responses to “Take That, Instagram!

  1. kdotdotdot

    This is beautiful stuff. You’re very fortunate to have gotten to take part in this process.

    I might be jealous of Liz’s feathered turban. Very very cool.

  2. Hub

    This is why I love film photography. It forces me to think more about what I’m doing.

  3. If it costs you time and effort (and money) you will make sure the photograph is beautiful.

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