Invented in 1851, the wet plate collodion photographic process produced a glass negative and a beautifully detailed print. Preferred for the quality of the prints and the ease with which they could be reproduced, the new method thrived from the 1850s until about the late 1880s when dry materials became available and less messy.
Today – this process is alive and well and used by many contemporary artists. The materials are slightly updated, but the process which can be produced from a negative or from the wet plate itself – is used widely. The CCSF PH67 class visited Gallery 291 in San Francisco, named after its 291 Geary Street address and met with curator Ed Carey to see the gallery and collection. Gallery 291 celebrates old meets new with works produced using antiquated and alternative photographic methods – many times with a computer thrown in somewhere in the process. Beth Moon makes full tone Platinum Palladium prints after capturing with infrared film, scanning and adjusting the images and outputting to a large digital negative. Mary Frey photographs using E6 film and creates one-of-a kind wet plate images. Michael Garlington places his subjects in unique scenes of Americana, captures with polaroid type 55 film – then scratches the emulsion before printing them in the darkroom. All artists create carefully crafted and beautiful images. Thank you Ed Carey and gallery 291 for the interesting behind the scenes (and processes) tour! -Erika
To see an interesting video of part of the process – check out Artist Sally Mann coating and working with glass wet plate negatives.