If you wait for perfection, you'll miss life

Navigating the Mysterious Wet Plate Collodion Process

Posted on March 25, 2014

On this beautiful Saturday in March I find myself standing in a photographic darkroom with protective goggles and gloves trying to balance a glass plate on my fingertips with one hand while carefully pouring with the other hand a chemical emulsion that will coat one side of the glass plate. When I finish coating the glass plate I place it into the section where film would normally go. Finally when the coated glass plate is in place I have about 20 minutes to shoot a picture, run back to the darkroom, pour developer and water and hope that I captured an image. Sounds like I have traveled back in time to the 1800′s, but alas I’m attending an awesome workshop run by Lisa Elmaleh at Penumbra Foundation| Center for Alternative Photography located right here in NYC.

I have been wanting to try the Wet Plate Collodion process for making photographs ever since I’ve seen the works of such photographers such as Sally Mann, Carleton Watkins and Henry Jackson (to name a few). I really didn’t know what to expect when I signed up for this 2-day workshop but after taking this class taught by Ms. Lisa Elmaleh I was ready to sign up for another class. As an instructor Lisa Elmaleh totally rocks.

She’s not only brilliant in the field of alternative photography, Photo District News named her one of its upcoming and emerging photographers in 2013. You can read the article by clicking here, PDN She has also won numerous fellowships in photography as well as exhibited her work across the country. She’s warm and most of all encouraging. After viewing her wonderful photographic body of work, (you can see it by clicking here Lisa Elmaleh) achieving beautiful Wet Plate Collodion prints such as Elmaleh’s, (click on the following names to read and see more of these artists’ works) Mann’s or Watkin’s takes a lot of patience, practice, intuition and did I say patience.

The following are a couple of photographs to give you a before and after feeling to the Wet Plate Collodion Process. These two ladies are Molly and Laura. They were Ms. Elmaleh’s assistants. They were pretty awesome, patient, professional and helpful. As you can see they posed for the photograph that I have at the start of the blog.


Both photographs were done on tintype which uses the same method for coating a glass plate but instead of glass it’s a thin sheet of iron coated with a dark enamel.

To give you visual of how small the glass plates and tintypes are I’ve included the following photographs. These are glass plates and tintypes done by students that attended the workshop.


All in all my experience at Penumbra, The Center for Alternative Photography was great. The instructors and staff were excellent and the studio has beautiful lighting,

And you can even chat with the executive director Geoffrey Berliner who clearly enjoys dropping by and meeting the students.

So if you are looking to venture out and enhance your photographic experience I would highly recommend this or another class at this fine learning center. I’m really happy there is a place like this where you can still step back in time and experience photography the old magical way.

Slowing down…

Posted on February 2, 2014

It’s been so hectic lately since we moved back to the city (no pun intended) that the crickets on my blog are getting louder. Between adjusting to being back and taking care of my boys the days just blend into one another. Hopefully by summer there will be a semblance of routine and normalcy. In the meantime I’m excited because I just signed up for an alternative photography class at the Center for Alternative Photography here in the city. I’ll be learning how to create Wet Plate negatives. It’s a throwback to doing photography the old-fashioned way. I’ve always loved working in the darkroom and admire photographers such as Mathew Brady, Julia Margaret Cameron and Sally Mann. The class will be in March but thankfully February is a short month. Perhaps I’ll have some body of work to show by the end of summer, but for now it will be nice to put on the brakes and slow down.

These moments…

Posted on January 1, 2014

Last night we rang in the New Year with a baby that didn’t fall asleep until a little after midnight (I think he was waiting for the ball to drop) and a 4-year-old with a bad cold calling out from bed, “can someone clean my nose?!” Thus, this is how we ushered in 2014 and that’s perfectly fine by me. The year 2013 was a total whirlwind for us. We welcomed another son, we moved, we said goodbyes and looked forward to new experiences. I didn’t and haven’t blogged as much as I would have liked. I haven’t been able to visit a lot of people’s blog and comment or have had a chance to thank new followers (thank you!) but one thing I learned in 2013 is to truly enjoy the moment and know that where we are at in our lives is only a moment in time. This stage of parenting is very intense but I know that in a couple of years Oliver will be walking, running and playing with his brother and we will have a bit more of a routine and hopefully get some more sleep, lol. Hopefully, I will start blogging more steadily in 2014, reconnect with people and work on my photography. In the meantime I’m going to savor this time, these moments because they are oh so fleeting. These moments, they settle into the crevices of our memory banks and when we find ourselves in a quiet space these memories hopefully bring a smile to our lips and fill us with a sense of having been fully present in our lives.

Wishing you all a present filled 2014!


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