Photography is a magic portal that can connect us in space and time. If you’ve been a photographer for any length of time, you know this. In digital photos that magic— that specialness—can be lost, simply by the medium used. There are just too many images, leaving us awash in imagery, that all seem to fall a little flat.
Film photography gets closer to that feeling of magic. Film slows down the process. The quality of film and quality of glass you’re shooting with can create a richer experience as well as a deeper connection to the moment. Film can be expensive, and while there are ways to create in a fully-analog fashion, ultimately most people are still experiencing that image on a screen.
This brings us to the process Kathryn Denelle Stevens and Lucas Mobley have been practicing: wet plate collodion. This process, from start to finish, is completely hands-on and analog. It is part chemistry, part craft/process and part art. Essentially, as the photographer you become a practitioner of the dark arts—a wizard, really!
On the other side of the lens, as the portrait subject, the experience is a bit different than a typical portrait session. Literally, the light that hits your face is reflected back into the camera, onto a plate, covered in silver particles; and that light moves those silver particles and your image is transferred onto that plate *all in REAL TIME!*. It is physics in action! It is true magic. And an experience like no other.
It is basically all the same thing (physics-wise) as digital, except, instead of a removed process of creating 1s and 0s on a microchip, you are moving matter and DIRECTLY transferring your likeness to a physical material, therefore creating the most direct image of your “self” as possible! You will come away with a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork that you can immediately hang on your wall or give to someone close to you.
The entire process from when the plate is coated in collodion, dipped in silver nitrate, exposed and developed must take place within a few minutes. It takes a tremendous amount of presence, as well as extreme technical dexterity during these moments, which brings a certain attention and intention to all involved. In a world where most of our experiences are infiltrated with some form of digital interface, the entire process is super refreshing!
Do you want a wet plate portrait?
If you’ve ever been interested in having your portrait made in this way, you now have a chance! Plus, you’ll be able to see the behind-the-scenes process for how it’s all done! Next month, Mastin Labs will be hosting 4 wet plate collodion pop-ups, Nov. 10-11, 2018 and Nov. 17-18, 2018, in which you will have the chance to have your portrait made by Lucas and Kathryn right here at our office studios! If you live in Seattle or plan to travel to the area, this is the time!