Collodian Question

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mark

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I've been reading lots and lots of web stuff on collodian and I was about to order a book or join Quinn Jacobson's online course to do it but I keep running into two statements that irritate me and make me wonder if the process is even worth exploring for me.

On the Sally Mann video she says the foreign objects, peeling stuff and the ridges in the emulsion are unexpected, and she seems to like this lack of control and in my opinion her collodian work is ugly because of it. This is obviously my opinion and my taste and your's will most likely be different.

I read something else to this effect on another site. Wish I could remember what site it was.

Okay, I am not adverse to clutter. Hell entropy follows me wherever I go, except into my photography, where being in ultimate control is relaxing for me.

Are these two statements true? A big part of me says these two artists are unwilling to put in the practice and call piss poor technique part of the art. The other part of me likes the slight peeling around the edges as long as the subject is not interfered with. but I HATE the uneven coating/ridges?

Now, I look at Coffer's work, Jacobson's work, and some of the work here and have to wonder. I don't see the uneven coatings. Am I missing it?

Is collodian capable of smooth even coats free of foreign matter and ridges in the coatings? Seriously, when it comes to my work I cannot stand NOT being in control of every part. I am willing to put in the required practice to make things smooth and be able to control the other aspects. If they cannot be controlled I'll skip the process.

Anythoughts?
 

Barry S

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I've only been doing wet plate for a short time, but I can assure you, some photographers routinely make perfect plates (definitely not me). I went to a Jill Enfield lecture and her plates are also full of flaws--which she cultivates. She claims she can make a perfect plate anytime she wants to, and that may be true, but I'd only take a workshop from someone that demonstrates mastery. I'm sure Quinn's online course would be excellent.
 
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mark

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That is my thought exactly. If she said she could make a perfect plate she needs to show one.

So, when I look at Coffer's and Jacobson's I am not just missing the flaws then?
 

Barry S

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The photographers consistently making excellent plates also have problems crop up, but they have the expertise, persistence, and will to solve them--usually quickly. I've noticed that some people doing wet plate have the same "problems" consistently and they either can't or don't want to fix them. My own goal is to be able to produce high quality plates, but they don't need to look like they were made by a machine.
 

Kerik

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It is definitely possible to make nice, clean plates with collodion. Look at historical work as well as some of the other contemporary workers. I've been accused of making plates that are too perfect at times. :smile: Here are a couple of pretty clean plates:

(there was a url link here which no longer exists)

(there was a url link here which no longer exists)

I embrace the flaws and serendipitous nature of the process, but there are times when I want a "perfect" plate and I can usually get it. But, the perfection you seek will take some time, guidance and practice to accomplish. The process can be controlled to a point, but if you're an absolute control FREAK, you may give up in frustration before you get the results you seek. Also be prepared for the unpredictable chemicals issues that can haunt you once all your physical skills are perfected. There's a great support group for those issues on Quinn's forum at www.collodion.com.
 

asp.artist

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If possible, take a workshop. We all not only have different skill levels, but different intent. And the people you have mentioned may be inviting interesting mishaps. And from the recent show of Sally Mann's work, I'm convinced that not only is she in total control, but she is manipulating the plates. But, you won't know how the plates will come out, or if the process is of sustainable interest (you are willing to put in the effort required) until you try. And a well spent weekend workshop can answer those questions.

Anne
 
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mark

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The issues with workshops are
A-I cannot justify the expense of the workshop itself, not to mention the huge amount of travel I would have to do to attend one. To attend one of Coffer's workshops It would cost me around 1500 dollars after travel and tuition. DO you have any idea of the amount of camera gear I could buy with that amount, if I had it?
B-Time. This is why Jacobson's online thing would work best for me

I have no problem learning a new skill and taking the time to learn it well. I also have no problem with chemical weirdness or problems that pop up. But if my stuff was going to have to look like Jill Enfield or Sally Mann's, why bother.

Thanks for the examples KeriK. I was wondering if the ridges and uneven coating was hidden in the scan. Now that I know things can be controlled I will go further.

Anyone know anything about Quinn's online course?
 

Kerik

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I've not seen Quinn's online workshop stuff, but knowing him well, my guess is that it's first rate.
 
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Allen Friday

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I have read Quinn's book on wet plate work, and it is excellent. It gives step by step instructions for mixing the chemicals and pouring the plates. It also has a section on trouble shooting. The illustrations are helpful. I have only read 3 or 4 books on wet plate, but Quinn's was by far the most straight forward.

I do wonder about your first post, however. The wet plate process in inherently unpredictable. As the collodion ages, its characteristics change. The contrast changes and exposure time changes. A light meter will only give you a rough starting point. The more you get into wet plate, the more you understand and anticipate the changes. But it is not like film, where you can take a meter reading and develop for a certain time and be pretty much guaranteed an acceptable outcome. You will need to become more intuitive in your work, especially in judging the light and therefore exposure. I find it enjoyable, but your milage may vary given the concerns expressed in post #1.
 

PBrooks

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I think at one time Sally Mann said she was getting too good at coating with her regular hand and switched to get those irregularities. I wasn't aware of Jill Enfield doing wetplate or workshops, as of 5 years ago she was still having a lady(not sure her name) come in to give the demo to her class at Parsons.
 

Quinn

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Thank you Barry, Kerik and Allen - the kind words and encouragement are appreciated!

Mark, my intention for the online workshop was for people exactly like you. It has 29 videos, private forum (and public forum as Kerik pointed out), and I do a monthly video podcast on it (this month from Barcelona, Spain!). You can learn the process there and perfect it over time.

As others have said, it is very possible to get "super-clean, film-like" plates with Wet Plate Collodion (Kerik's examples are great) if that's what you want to do. I do it sometimes, it just depends on the application and intention of the image - it will take some time, but very, very doable.

The process isn't difficult. It's just a lot of stuff to purchase, put together and remember - logistically, it's tough sometimes. The difficulty level has been exaggerated (I'm guilty of making it sound more difficult than it is, too). It's more like working from your gut (intuition) than from hard science and numbers (traditional film processing). There's a lot of lattitude in this process - that's one of the reasons I really enjoy it.

Again, if you want to make a science out of Collodion, you can - you can master it and control it, but be preapred to invest some time to accomplish that. You can learn the process online, too. I know you can, because I work with several who have.

I hope that helps. And I hope you join Chemical Pictures! (www.studioQ.info) Thanks again (everyone) for the support!
 
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smieglitz

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mark

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Thanks alot Quinn. As soon as I figure out some logistics I aquire the right supplies I will jump in.

Hey Smieglitz, Thanks a lot for writing that article. It was just the down and dirty-just the facts-type article I needed.
 
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