Fighting fog on plates or why to struggle with wet plates

May 26, 2015  •  3 Comments

It was just a few days ago, when I was asking a question in the Collodion Bastards Facebook group. It is normal, that my silver bath scored more than 200 plates and it is still working without any sign of the need for heavy maintenance? I'm filtering silver bath after every session and sunbathing at least once a week. If there is no sun, I let silver at least for few hours breath in a wide neck bottle, to let evaporate alcohol and ether.  I know the process of silver bath heavy maintenance just from books, and it looks pretty messy, time consuming and happy end is not guaranteed. So it is logical, that I try to avoid it as long as possible.

And boom, the first photo session after this question and there is a fog. Heavy, spread over the whole plate with and destroying image far beyond anything acceptable in my On The Edge gallery. By theory, there can be a more reason of fog on plates. Hot weather in summer, overexposure, too young and strong collodion or, among others, neglected silver bath. 

I have three wet plate photography manuals, written by Quins Jacobs, John Coffer and Mark Osterman. Every of them is a valuable read. I think it was in a John Coffer's book, where is the sentence - if you have technical problems with your plates, the silver bath is the least likely source of them. Or, before you start to do something with your silver bath, check everything else.

The first step was to try prepare and develop plate without exposing it to the light. I did, and, voilà, the final plate was in a pure clear black without any track of fog. I exhaled deeply and checked the plate holder. One of its sides was loose, so I covered it with tape and it works. It was an easy fight this time.

A few months ago I decided to stick, at least for some time, with tintypes. Using the same collodion with the same developer and the same fixer. I want to focus for some time on my projects, Maly Dunaj is the core one for this year. And I prefer to improve as much as possible in a very narrow field instead of making of new and new experiments. But there is a logical question. Why I'm spending the valuable amount of time and other resources with wet plates?

Maybe not just for me, the magic and the power of photography is not in an ability to create endless copies of reality. On the contrary, the role of photography is to teach us how to see, how to anticipate the world around us. 

When I was thinking about the history of photography as a medium, there is from the beginning a strong relationship between the camera's and the photographer's role in the process. The automation of photography inevitably shifted the main role from the photographer to the camera. The world, how we perceive it from the stream of photographs, which is falling constantly from the net in our eyes, is the world defined by cameras. 

With wet plate camera I can make pictures of the same places as with my Nikon, but I will definitely make different pictures there.  With wet plates I will make pictures I will never ever made with Nikon (and vice versa).  Are the wet plate photos more authentic than digital snapshots? I don't know, maybe. But I'm sure, that they are more human. 






Ry Dalee(non-registered)
Good article. I appreciate your reflections on the medium. It is a mystical art, to say the least. I am looking forward to more of your writing on wet plate. Keep up the good work.
John Fink Jr.(non-registered)
Well said Juro. Nice work.
Bob Redd(non-registered)
i enjoyed your commentary.
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