I know I haven’t been posting as I should, so to make it up to you, I’ll write something on the longer side with interesting things to look at.
For the first time all week, it didn’t rain today, which was quite nice. This also meant that I was able to take my wet plate camera, ‘Lorena’, for a spin, something I haven’t been able to do since November. Winter weather, I’ve found, is not conducive to collodion work. It felt good to go through the familiar motions again and make some art. Out of nine plates, five turned out, which is good for me, the eternal perfectionist. There is something very therapeutic for me in wet plate. A lot of that comes from its near ritual-like quality. To do it right and well, you really have to be committed to the process, and the process is not a quick one. I find great pleasure, though, in going through the familiar steps, setting up my darkroom, treating the plate, preparing my camera, exposing the image, and developing and fixing. Each step has its own set of substeps, and you have to find the best way to make those steps work, and then commit it to memory. Just as with most things, when you do it enough, somehow your mind and hands absorb it, and you can deftly and almost unconsciously move through it and end up with something beautiful. It just feels so damn good. In that respect, today was a good day.
In other news on the wet plate front, the Studio’s newest camera came in this week. My dad gave a reproduction Anthony bellows camera to my mom as an early birthday gift. The good news is, it is quite pretty and can take landscape shots. The bad news is, it was handled a little too roughly in transit, and its ground glass was shattered. Expensive stuff, ground glass. Luckily, the man who made the camera is shipping us a new piece for Dad to install.
We have a tradition now at our studio. Cameras get names, musical names. My camera, Lorena, is named for my favorite mid-nineteenth century song of the same name. Since we had a camera with a more traditional name which represents one aspect of our studio, Mom chose something a little more modern for hers. I recently introduced her to the wonders of Mumford & Sons who deliciously blend old and new in their idiom. She dubbed the new camera, Mumford. I heartily agreed with her choice, and Dad is coming around. It just seemed to fit very well. We’re all about blending the old and new too.
Lorena and Mumford (Lorena is a repro English Style Daguerreotype Camera from the early 1850s. Also while the camera bodies are reproductions, all of our lenses are originals dating to the mid-1800s).
Man, that makes me think. M&S would be amazing to photograph in wet plate. Seriously, they would be perfect. I’m thinking the whole field motif, like from the “Winter Winds” video would be amazing. The wheat would look so cool on a tintype especially. M&S, if you’re ever in the Nashville area and want a free tintype (or hell fifty, if we’re being honest) hit me up! Ha ha ha. For those of you who don’t know, I have a secret dream to become a wet plate rock photographer. Maybe one day it will happen, gotta keep those options open, y’know?
Just to clarify, for anyone who has not previously read my blog and who is reading the above paragraphs and scratching his or her head, I am a wet plate photographer. And here is where the shameless self-promotion begins: I own and operate (with the help of my wonderful family) a studio called the Vacant Chair Photography Studio. We work on individual commission making both modern and mid-nineteenth century- themed images for customers, and we also go to various living history events (mostly Civil War) to educate the public about the lives of itinerant field photographers of the time. The latter is not my favorite part, because I much prefer working out of a stationary studio, but that’s just part of it. I also get better, more relaxed interaction and more time with my clients when I’m not in the field. It is fun to teach the public about two of my passions, though, photography and history. I suppose there are pros and cons to each setting. Personally, I also love making still life images, but most people find the portrait end of the medium more appealing.
So yes, here’s the part where I link you to all of our pages and stuff. You can find a large portion of our work on our Flickr photostream. I added the work I did today a little while ago. We also have a Facebook page. Just search for the Vacant Chair Photography Studio, and we pop right up. It’s a good way to keep up with our latest comings and goings. As of a couple of days ago, we got a Twitter too. So definitely check us out there as well.
Okay, enough of that. I actually hate doing that, but I felt like it was a little pertinent. Instead, I’ll end with a few images from the studio. Enjoy!
One of my early ambrotypes of some Chucks
One of my dogs, Orrie, in tintype
This is an ambrotype of me taken by my mom last summer. Unfortunately this image is no longer with us in plate form but lives on digitally as it was a victim of a tragic tripping accident. Oh the hazards of working with glass. Also, the pealing on the bottom right corner occurred because this plate was not treated with albumen to help the collodion adhere to the glass.
All of the images in this post are my own, and I claim copyright on them. Please do not claim them or distribute them as your own work. If you use them, please attribute them to the Vacant Chair Photography Studio. Thanks!