The wet plate collodion process is purely handmade. All solutions are mixed by myself, from the collodion itself, the developer that is poured on the plate to the varnish that finishes the photograph. Having everything in my hands, I can control the look of the photograph in a very early stage. My customers and I can evaluate the final product after 10 minutes, wet plate collodion is the „polaroid of the 19th century“.
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In the early days of photography in the mid-19th century, several photographic processes revolutionized the depiction of reality. Around 1850/1851, the collodion wet plate process – discovered by Frederick Scott Archer and Gustave Le Gray – gradually replaced the daguerreotype as an imaging technique.
This process made it possible to produce positives or negatives while considerably shortening the exposure time compared to earlier processes. After exposures that sometimes lasted several minutes with the daguerreotype, exposure times of less than 60 seconds were now possible. Duplicates could be made from negatives by albumen or salt printing, making photographs accessible to a large audience.
The photographer always had to carry his complete darkroom with him to take a picture, since the light-sensitive plate loses its photosensitivity as soon as it dries. Materials such as clear or black glass (for negatives and so-called ambrotypes), black anodized aluminum or coated iron plates (for so-called tintypes) can be used as carriers for the collodion solution. Once the plate is cleaned, the collodion solution is applied. The photographic collodion consists of gun cotton diluted in ether and alcohol and mixed with bromine and iodine salts. Once the mixture is applied, the ether evaporates and a tough, sticky layer remains on the plate.
Now the coated plate must be made light sensitive in a silver bath. The plate can now be exposed with the appropriate large format camera and must be developed with a ferrous sulfate solution within the time while the plate is still wet. As soon as the development of the photograph is completed within a few seconds, the last step is to dissolve out the silver iodide and bromide still contained with a fixing solution, wash it and, after drying the plate, preserve it with a varnish.