Tag Archives: collodion

This is totally normal family bonding in my house.

Dad and I spent the last few days working with our skeleton friend who has appeared in a series of wet plates from the Studio as well. This is the first time all break I’ve really had enough light and time to mess around with the cameras. It was nice to work with Dad on these. We had a lot of fun, and I think we ended up with some cool shots. Irving enjoyed being studio cat again too.

Here are the two keepers from yesterday:

I love how I live in a house where this is commonplace.

These were the second day’s efforts:

It’s always nice to spend the day doing what I love with those I love.



Filed under Art, Irving, Photography

I have a favor to ask…

I just entered the Exposure 2011 photography competition yesterday with some of my wet plate work. If you like the work I do and want to help me win a grant to keep doing it, a trip to NYC and Paris, and major exposure, then please go to my portfolio here and vote for me by liking it. Then please share it with your friends. Thanks for the support, everyone!

(P.S. I’m pretty sure you can vote daily, so keep coming back!)

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Wet plate, Monsters, and Gators

Friday, for first time in months, I took my cameras out into the field. I am working on a project with a sculpture MFA student here. She creates these fantastical creatures, monsters to some, the “friendly unknown” to her. I am shooting some of her creations in wet plate to hopefully add to a growing exhibition idea involving hoaxes, faux taxidermic specimens, and a lot of imagination (details will come as they develop). Check out her work here.  Jen and I really get along well artistically and as friends. I really loved working with her Friday and look forward to much more of it in the future.

This whole concept of the “friendly unknown,” as she calls it is, really fascinating and beautiful. It’s meant to push people to expand their minds and be brave about what they don’t know. Jen believes it is arrogant to think that we are completely alone in the universe, that there are no such things as Big Foots (Feet?) or Nessies, and even that there isn’t some greater being guiding it all. We just don’t know, so it’s silly to shut down and say that “there is no such thing,” when there is no way to know. It’s much more fun to be open and pleasantly surprised than close-minded and embarrassed by previous assertions of absolutism. As Jen pointed out, all those people who said the world was flat hundreds of years ago, still look pretty dumb today. I like her philosophy.

We shot on the prairie in Micanopy on one of the observation decks. Jen got down in the brush (which is probably not allowed but there were no signs saying not to), and we had a blast despite heavy cloud cover and crazy winds. The weather, while not ideal for traditional pretty, pristine plates, sort of suited my approach to this project perfectly. I was tasked with documenting an inanimate object, which is meant to look like a living, wild creature in a wild environment as if he belonged there. The plates needed to be slightly out of focus, grainy, gritty, and slightly rushed, as if someone was actually trying to quickly document the rare sighting before the creature lumbered off. They were pictures of proof, I suppose. The nature of Jen’s concept, though, also made me thing of her creature as a gentle giant character, something perhaps fearsome or unnerving at first, but gentle and sweet beyond the odd exterior.

From these concepts I looked to these bits of inspiration when photographing the monster:

The Barbapapa children’s book series by Annette Tison (especially Barbapapa’s Ark).

Did anyone else read these lovely books as a child?

Maurice Sendak’s classic Where the Wild Things Are:

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss:

Despite the fact that this book, and all of his other books for that matter, scared the bejesus out of me as a child.

And finally the Patterson-Gimlin hoax film:

The plates we made are far from what would be considered a “good plate” in the wet plate world. They are dark, overexposed, blurred, and have spots and specks, but that’s exactly what I wanted. I wanted them to appear as if they were produced in haste, as if trying to capture the creature before it wondered on its way. I think they turned out really well. Here are some:

Being two gals not from the land of gators, we had no clue that they would hang out in areas without water (silly us). After we were done with the shoot, and Jen was finished tramping around in the tall grass, we found this guy in a storm drain by the parking area:

He would have had to crawl in via the prairie. There was no other way for him to enter the drain.

Yeah, I’m glad we didn’t run into him out on the prairie.

Yesterday we had the pleasure of doing an engagement shoot for one of my friends and fellow museum studies student, Courtney, and here fiancé Brad. The weather was kinder and less windy and the location (their neighbors’ backyard) was perfect for this sort of session.

Here are the best shots:

I feel satisfied for the next few weeks, but I can’t wait until I get to go home for the holidays and play with my cameras again.


Filed under Art, Photography

Updates from the Studio

Sadly, I wish I could say these were updates of my work. Unfortunately, I am wet plate free until December. My apartment complex has some tricky, persnickety rules about hazardous chemicals, and the photography department at school is having ventilation issues. No one‘s developing anything there at the moment.

While I am working digitally here in the Sunshine State, however, the Studio’s still up and running in Tennessee. M&D have been playing around in the darkroom quite a bit, and have produced some interesting stuff. I thought I would share their work.

I present The Bones Collection:

They also tried using mica for the first time. I think it turned out pretty well.

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Just a thought: Bands and Wet Plates

I know I just posted  this on my Facebook, and if you read it there, I am sorry to be redundant. However, I would like to pose a query for all my Music City buds (or anyone else in the general southeastish area). Because I am definitely sure that all of you who read my blog are all diverse and eclectic and have interesting connections, I would like to know if any of you know any local bands (country, indie, jazz or whatever) that would be interested in having some wet plate promo images made in a sort of mutual promotional deal. I think it could be a very fun concept to play with, so I thought I would throw that out there to see if I get any bites. If you have any leads, contact our studio at thevacantchairstudio@yahoo.com. Thanks much!

Oh and once again, here is our Flickr photostream with examples of some of The Vacant Chair Photography Studio’s work.

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Filed under Art, Miscellany, Music, Photography

Shameless self-promotion (at least it’s interesting)

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!

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Filed under Art, History, Photography