Wetplate Portraits | Ivan Sohrakoff

Todays feature is one we are insanely excited to share! I was roaming the California State Fair art collection and I was shocked. I basically ran to this one piece in specific. I knew instantly what it was. A gorgeous huge image that I instantly recognized as a wetplate. For anyone that has seen a wetplate in person you know what I mean. Sure digital scans of the image are impressive. But in person there is an amazing luster and glisten. Its 3D and sparkles from different angles. Oh and the detail, the beautiful detail, detail that you would never image. Not to forget the unique brown tone. I could go on. Not only are the details of the image gorgeous but the portrait itself was hauntingly beautiful. The image I saw was below. Amazing right. I went to his website was left flabbergasted once again. I also instantly knew I had to reach out, give complements and ask if he would let us feature more of his work. To find wetplate photographers is very rare, and we are so honored to share his work today.
Instant Wet Plate Collodion Portraits
Until I learned the process of wet plate collodion photography, I was not particularly enthralled with shooting portraits.  The wet plate collodion process, as well as shooting with 150+ year-old lenses, allowed me to experience portraiture in a slow, but instantly gratifying way.  This series of portraits includes friends and family, and most were made outside using the light of day as well as fluorescent lights.  I used portable darkrooms, hand–mixed chemicals, old view cameras, lenses from the 19th century, and plates of glass and aluminum.  All my subjects were very patient and willing to sit for long periods of time without flinching, as the process involves a slow set up and long exposures despite the quick processing and instant nature of the final plate.
About Wet Plate Collodion
Wet plate collodion is a 19th-century photographic process invented in 1851. It was the third photographic process (Daguerreotype was the first, Calotype was the second), and used throughout the Civil War. Wet plate collodion was the most popular form of photography from the 1850’s into the 1870’s. Wet plate collodion is a process of hand-coating a plate of glass or metal with salted collodion and then sensitizing the plate in a solution of silver nitrate, making the plate light sensitive. The plate is then transferred (in a darkroom) to a light-tight holder, and then to a nearby camera while still wet. The image is exposed using a view camera (of any size). Exposures need a lot of light, and the plate is only sensitive to UV light (no reds or yellows) and has an ISO of less than 1 (yes, one). After exposure, the holder is taken into a darkroom, the plate removed, and a developing solution poured over the plate. It is then hand developed, stopped, and rinsed. At this point, the plate can be taken out of the darkoom. The image appears as a negative until a fixing agent poured over the plate turns it into a positive. For an ambrotype (wet plate collodion on glass), the silver is a creamy color, so the image appears as a negative if viewed against a bright white and a positive if viewed with a black background. Ambrotypes can be made specifically for use as glass negatives as well (for contact printing). For a tintype (on metal), the plate is pre-coated with a black background, and the final collodion image appears as a positive. The final step of the process is varnishing the plate to protect the silver from tarnishing.

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