24-70: Adventures in Collodion

Last week, my father and I spent a fun-filled evening with a highly creative photographer friend of ours, Mark Scholey, who has turned his hand to Victorian era-esque portraiture.
This doesn’t mean simply dressing people up in Victorian clothing (although there was a dazzling array of macabre props to choose from).
He uses traditional methods and a quarter plate camera to produce true one-of-a-kind tintype portraits.

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The process of preparing and developing the plates was fascinating. Liquid collodion is poured onto 5×4 inch aluminium sheet and allowed to dry until tacky. This is then sensitized in silver nitrate solution for a few minutes before loading into the camera.

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The photos require exposure times of several seconds (Mark explained that the sensitivity is about 1 ISO!). This has to be done under a constant light source, since the equivalent flash power requirements would flash-fry the subject.

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The exposed plate is then transferred to the darkroom for developing. Since the plates are both negative and positive at different stages of the procedure, this is a lot of fun to watch: the image undergoes a complete tonal reversal within a minute.

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The negative image disappears for a few seconds before returning as a positive. The images undergo a lengthy fixing bath, and are then dried and varnished.

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It was a real pleasure to sit for these, and a joy to watch and photograph at each stage. Thanks to Mark Scholey for the opportunity.

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2 responses to “24-70: Adventures in Collodion

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