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Thread: Wet Plate Collodion in the 1870s

  1. #1

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    Wet Plate Collodion in the 1870s

    Here is a fascinating series of wet plate collodion photos of the American West from the 1870s by Timothy O'Sullivan. Very interesting stuff.

    From the article:
    These remarkable 19th century sepia-tinted pictures show the American West as you have never seen it before - as it was charted for the first time. The photos, by Timothy O'Sullivan, are the first ever taken of the rocky and barren landscape.
    And then:
    O'Sullivan used a primitive wet plate box camera which he would have to spend several minutes setting up every time he wanted to take a photograph.

    He would have to assemble the device on a tripod, coat a glass plate with collodion - a flammable solution. The glass would then be put in a holder before being inserted into a camera.

    After a few seconds exposure, he would rush the plate to his dark room wagon and cover it in chemicals to begin the development process.
    I wonder how many folks here are using "a primitive wet plate box camera"?

    They don't look like the wet plate shots I'm accustomed to seeing in the image sharing threads here.
    Never is always wrong; always is never right.

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  2. #2
    C. D. Keth's Avatar
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    Re: Wet Plate Collodion in the 1870s

    That can't be wet collodion. Where are the fingerprints, peeling edges, comets, runs, and pinholes that let the viewer know it's alternative?

  3. #3

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    Re: Wet Plate Collodion in the 1870s

    Thanks Mark. Nice article.

  4. #4

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    Re: Wet Plate Collodion in the 1870s

    Funny how someone has put a copyright notice for Timothy O'Sullivan on them.

  5. #5
    Serious Amateur Photographer pepeguitarra's Avatar
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    Re: Wet Plate Collodion in the 1870s

    Great article and photos.
    "I have never in my life made music for money or fame. God walks out of the room when you are thinking about money." -- Quincy Jones

  6. #6
    tgtaylor's Avatar
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    Re: Wet Plate Collodion in the 1870s

    While researching the life of the polymath painter/photographer/writer...William James Stillman (1828 - 1901), I ran across Stillman's 1874 The Amateur's Photographic Guide Book, Being A Complete Resume of the Most Useful Dry and Wet Colodian Processes: https://archive.org/details/amateursphotogr00stilgoog

    Stillman apprenticed under Fredrick Edwin Church, a leading figure of the Hudson School of landscape painting, and took up the camera in 1859. Until the end his life he was active and respected voice in 19th Century photography.

    Enjoy,

    Thomas

  7. #7
    tgtaylor's Avatar
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    Re: Wet Plate Collodion in the 1870s

    Twin Buttes



    A modern, more down to earth, version of O'Sullivan's 1872 Twin Buttes



    Thomas

  8. #8
    Mark Sawyer's Avatar
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    Re: Wet Plate Collodion in the 1870s

    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Stahlke View Post
    I wonder how many folks here are using "a primitive wet plate box camera"?

    They don't look like the wet plate shots I'm accustomed to seeing in the image sharing threads here.
    A hundred years from now, we'll be remembered as using "primitive i-phones"...

    Most of the wet plates we post are tintypes, and the better-made ones look similar to the vintage tintypes. But yes, quite a few of us are enamored with the "Sally Mann" effect of layers of artifacts on top of the image. Few are making wet glass plate negatives for albumin printing, or closing down the old Petzvals for maximum depth of field and minimum lens signature. And most of us are wet plate dilettantes, shooting only occasionally. O'Sullivan, Watkins, Jackson, and their likes were full-time professional wet plate photographers.
    "I love my Verito lens, but I always have to sharpen everything in Photoshop..."

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