Artist Spotlight: Jeff Howlett

It’s Monday, that means it’s time for another Artist Spotlight. If you are new to the blog, this is a  feature, where we spotlight photographers and artist that are inspiring others with there instant film work. We try to provide our readers with a new spotlight each week, so if you would like to be featured or know of someone you would like to see on the blog, drop us a line.  We love putting people in the spotlight!

 

jeff

 

This week our spotlight is on South Carolina photographer/director Jeff Howlett. I met Jeff a couple years ago when he was just finishing up the launch of a documentary he directed. We had mutual friends and Jeff ask if he could do a wet plate portrait of me. We have since become friends and Jeff has even helped me along the way as I’m gathering the materials needed to start shooting wet plates myself. As a matter of fact, I shot the portrait of Jeff used for this post. I have watched Jeff grow in his collodion skills, and consider him one of the best in the area with several up coming shows in the South East. Jeff is a fan of instant film and has quite the collection of Polaroid cameras, but today I want to focus on his collodion work. You can see more of Jeff’s work at the following links. Also, be sure to check out his movie, A Band Called Death, which can be found on Netflix. Fr bookings, you can contact Jeff at howlermano@gmail.com.

Website | Twitter | Instagram

• A little about yourself. Where you are from and what you do.

My name is Jeff Howlett I was born in Pensacola, FL I am a wetplate collodion photographer, film director/producer and a single father of two beautiful children. I have lived my life in Virginia and Vermont and now call Rock Hill, SC my home.

How did you get into wet plate photography?

I fell in love w wetplate collodion shortly after the documentary film I directed “A Band Called Death” had wrapped. When I saw a soldier series of tintypes created by Ellen Susan, I immediately was drawn to the aesthetic of how the silver reflected such beauty on the metal. I knew from seeing that especially done today in modern days, I knew I had to seek her out and take a workshop. I took a workshop a few years ago from Ellen and that totally sealed it for me.

What cameras do you currently shoot wet plates on?

My go to camera for events is generally a 1950s Crown or Speed Graphic w a Carl Zeiss 210mm lens. I find that camera I can beat the hell out of it without thinking twice and if something happens I have a few backups. I have a collection of cameras I shoot plates on from Holgas to my turn of the century 5×7 Burke and James, to my 1800s 8×10 Empire State and Kodak which I use several different petzval lenses. 
 

Have you shot on other mediums, like glass?

 I also photograph collodion on glass, which is called an ambrotype. I love photographing BW film from large format to 35mm and then getting in the darkroom and processing my own film. I also enjoy photographing w my SX70s esp. the impossible B&W 2.0.

What is the largest wet plate you have shot?

The 8×10 is the largest I have, I do not have excessive amounts of money laying around to shoot larger than that 🙂 I was going to go up to John Coffer’s cabin in NY last year and shoot a 20×24 plate but I decided to stay here in NC and meet up with my now dear friend and fellow wetplater Chris Morgan, who I have collaborated with on events ever since. Sure I could build a camera obscura out of my front door but what would be the point, their are already guys out their racing to see who has the biggest plate, ahem but I digress….

 

Where do you source your materials from? We have seen vendors like Freestyle sell parlor tin type kits. Are these kits worth the time and money?

I use Artcraft, Chemsavers and Bostick and Sullivan for all my chemistry and Main Trophy for plates and any local hardware store for my glass. I have never used the Freestyle kit although Bostick has some starter kits, I have not used them although I heard they work pretty well for beginners. My suggestions for anyone that is interested wetplate is to take a workshop or class, the photographers I mention below are all instructors and their fees vary. 

I know you travel with your wet plate work. How do you manage darkroom in changing locations?

I have a portable darkbox that Chris and I setup at events, the general setup and breakdown is about 1 hour, we can photograph 12 or more tintype portraits an hour. 

Are there any hazards that come with shooting wet plates?

Just don’t drink the chemicals and safety always first!

What other photographers can you recommend people look up for wet plate work?

I mention these guys because not only do their portfolios speak for themselves but they are all instructors : John Coffer, Chris Morgan, Ellen Susan, Mark Osterman, France Scully and Will Dunniway. 

Any personal projects we should know about, or up coming events?

I have a gallery show of my wetplate and film work currently at Gallery Twenty-Two in Charlotte, NC. For events myself and Chris Morgan travel around a bit doing wetplate, so we are adding dates daily. We just got back from Wilco’s Solid Sound in MA and getting ready for Phish’s Magnaball in NY and then back home for God Save the Queen City in Charlotte in August. September we will be at Muddy Roots in TN then I will be in Philly on September 25 and NJ or Virginia on September 26. Please get in touch if you would like to host an upcoming event.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into wet plate photography?

One word of advice “patience” and a whole lot of it!

 

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