What is wet-plate collodion? ...
In short, alchemy.
The wet plate collodion process was invented in 1851 by Englishman Frederick Scott Archer. The process involves coating a glass or metal sheet with a viscous liquid called collodion or guncotton. A heady mixture of nitrocellulose dissolved in alcohol and ether containing iodide salts. In the darkroom the plate is submerged in a bath of silver nitrate to sensitize for several minutes. Next it is transferred to the camera still dripping wet, owing the name 'wet plate'. Here it is exposed through a vintage brass lens using 21st Century lighting. Practitioners of the past could be identified by their blackened silver-stained hands.
Gareth's great passion is to bring the magic of analog photography to people all over. Wet collodion portraiture is a collaborative, interactive experience between photographer and sitter.
You are invited to watch as your image is revealed in the fixing bath, turning from a cool negative to a warm positive before your eyes. An astonishing moment for those familiar only with digital images, particularly children. The entire process takes just fifteen minutes from start to finish and could be likened to the original polaroid.
Wet collodion ambrotypes (glass) and tintypes (metal) are handcrafted, tangible works of art made of pure, elemental silver. Every plate is prepared individually making each a unique one of a kind object. No two are are ever completely alike. Small changes in flowing the chemistry result in organic swirls around the edges of the image which are unreplicable. These slight imperfections are an antidote to today's perfect imagery and the hallmark of a handmade artefact. There are no negatives and so no other copy exists besides the scan.
Wet plate is valued for its hyperrealistic detail and clarity, yet unrivaled by modern technology. Warm toned, creamy smooth and grainless; they allow the subject to appear almost present. The images capture detail unseen by the eye, uncovering deep, poignant features of the sitter. Resulting in images of exceptional honesty and character. An imprint of the subjects soul in silver.
A hundred and sixty years on, examples from the mid-1800's look as resplendent today as the moment they were made. Testament to the durability of the medium.
Your portrait is assured to be enjoyed by yourself and many generations to come. It's humbling to create heirloom photographs to mark people's time together.