New Project: PreFilm

Well I guess some of you may be wondering why I seem to have dropped off the planet in last month or two. It’s because I’ve been busy. Busy with work and busy with life and busy getting ready for new art projects.

Sometime ago I saw a video about a photographic process called wet plate collodion. It was invented in the 1850’s before there was film. I thought the images I was seeing from this process were fantastic. So, of course, I decided to emulate them with my iphone. Part of the joy of this process though is that every image is different due to the way the chemicals are poured and interact during pre and post exposure processing. The templates for iPhone pseudo wet plate were giving every image the same look. So I ended up manipulating every image to make them different. I have to say I did like what I created and indeed, one of those images was printed on to mirrored glass to create a fake daguerreotype for a major art exhibit this summer in California. This is it here.

psudo wet plate nude of Ella_Rose

Ella Rose

Of course, my interest had been piqued at this point and I had to investigate whether it would be possible to learn this actual process myself and make actual glass plate images myself. So, after a few beers I ended up on ebay and bought a 130yr old French wet plate camera from a guy in Poland. It arrived damaged. It also seemed to be parts from two different cameras and non functional. The guy had 100% feedback over several years on ebay…I was gutted. However, it was a good price and I felt I ought to keep it in case it was salvageable. Here it is as it arrived.


Now,  the camera is just one small part of this process. During my research in to the actual chemistry of all of this it became obvious pretty fast that this could be pretty dangerous if you didn’t know what you were doing so I decided that rather than attempt to learn by myself I ought to go on a course. So I signed up to see John Brewer in Manchester in the summer. His two day course is a great introduction to the process and is very hands on. I ended up going home with over 10 plates from the weekend. I was hooked. I needed to get a camera that worked now.

After getting home from Manchester I started emailing potential repairers/rebuilders to see if anyone could help get my ancient wet plate collodion camera back to life. One guy came through and it turned out I was already following him on flickr! Mark Voce up in Yorkshire was the saviour. He built a complete new back assembly along with new ground glass focus window and new wet plate holders.

new glass and back

new wet plate collodion holders

I arranged to visit John’s again in late sept to pick up the chemicals I’d need and to collect the camera from Mark. I decided that buying premixed chemicals is a lot more sensible thatn trying to store and work with potentially lethal and explosive chemicals myself….Then I headed home via a glass supplier to collect a couple of large sheets of glass to cut plates from. All set I now had more prep to do.

Part two soon.

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