Wet plate collodion photography is an early form of photography from the 1850s, a process that was discovered by Frederick Scott Archer in the UK. This process of alchemy uses silver and takes about fifteen minutes to take a photograph that is created on glass or metal. In order for the process to work the material must stay wet.
You might ask why I would put all that time and effort into one photograph? – Less is more. We all have phones and hard drives full of thousands of pictures that we have taken and perhaps will never see again unless they are printed and hung on the wall. With this process you not only take the photograph but you make the photograph by hand. The effort that it takes to create an image using this process means that every one is carefully considered. Learning this process took a long time in itself and has taught me many things such as persistence and a whole new level of patience. Every picture is unique and can never be exactly duplicated due to the nature of the process and ever-changing environment. The results of these one-off images can be stunning and I find the process helps capture people in a way that can't be replicated by technology. The image is very honest and can't ever be changed - there is no digital image editing in this world if you make a mistake.
These kinds of images also capture a surreal other worldly quality. I never get tired of seeing the image I have taken appear as if by magic on the glass plate. It is also a real joy to see people’s reaction when they see this happen. To me this process is a reminder of where we have come from and the value of human ingenuity and persistence not only in photography but the world over. We have been slowly losing the real essence of artisanship that has been replaced with fast alternatives. At the same time, modernization and technology has also helped enable our insatiable need for instant gratification - photography is a great example of this.