View Full Version : Wet Plate Preferences

Joseph Kayne
6-Mar-2019, 15:22
I'm interested in your thoughts about wet plates. When I show my wet plates to the general public, they seem to like the plates with aberrations. Wet Plate photographers seem to like the clean plates. For me, it depends on the particular plate and subject matter.... For u wet plate photographers out there, do u have a preference? Thanks. Joe.

Jim Noel
6-Mar-2019, 16:25
I prefer mine clean,but don't reach that goal often enough.

6-Mar-2019, 16:27
Hi Joseph.

I have seen the same thing as well. It seems the average casual viewer likes seeing heavy artifacts in wet plate images - perhaps because these artifacts are a firm and clear sign that the image they see is indeed a wet plate photograph. That's OK - its how the public tends to think of wet plate imagery as made by modern practitioners. But for myself, I prefer not to make plates that show heavy artifacts: it is evidence of sloppy/inexperienced technique. Sometimes accidents occur that contribute to the quality and content of the plate, but I find most times it just looks like messy, poor craftsmanship.
However, I think there is an exception to that notion: Sally Mann. It is my impression that many (not all) of her wet plate images are well chosen for their total impact and many of them make good use of artifacts. I think her editing skills are very good, so she is undoubtedly culling work that is making gratuitous use of artifact for artifact's sake.

I don't mind work that makes it clear that the wet plate process was used, as long as the artifacts aren't the first thing you see:


Mark Sawyer
6-Mar-2019, 17:54
I prefer clean plates as a rule, but sometimes allow a few artifacts to remain along the edges or in the corners, not too intrusive in the main image area. I generally go with the little silver residues; they can be removed or left in place after the plate is dry. The artifacts in the upper left corner of this plate would have wiped right off, but they added a little to the atmosphere, at least for me...

https://farm5.staticflickr.com/4833/44998600675_024114f17b_b.jpg (https://flic.kr/p/2bynAfF)Booklovers 2 s (https://flic.kr/p/2bynAfF) by Mark Owen Sawyer (https://www.flickr.com/photos/carrots_eh/), on Flickr

Mike in NY
6-Mar-2019, 20:33
Paul articulated my sentiments exactly, so I won't repeat them.

Thanks Paul.


7-Mar-2019, 14:37
I like to make my plates as clean as I can without doing heroic measures. I don't do vacuum micro filtering of my chemicals, and I don't rigorously clean my silver tank or take other measures that would make cleaner plates. However, I do try to use the best techniques when the plate is in hand, which is about 50% of where flaws ("artifacts") come from.

To me, why be creative but accept flaws that only show you don't know your process? I know why the public likes artifacts. The same reason they think an "old timey" photo shot on digital with a sepia tone print is authentic if they're wearing cowboy and bar girl costumes. My one "allowed" artifact is the slight blue drip edge that I often let remain, caused by not fixing the plate longer.