Shoot Amsterdam is a yearly photographic event held in Amsterdam @ Pakhuis de Zwijger. I will be one of the speakers during the “How do they do it” sessions in the Studio at the 5th floor.
I will be talking about the wet plate collodion process, its place in time, so a little history and a little nowadays, accompanied by some visuals on a screen. Needless to say I’m very excited to be participating in this great event and hope to see you there!
Oh…and Sign up; it’s for free and it’s gonna be fun 🙂
It has been awhile, and again, a lot has happened.
In short we got a call on the 26th of January that in four weeks we had to leave our beautiful place in Margraten. 4 weeks to move two large working spaces and a full blown living space… And not only did we have to move in these few weeks, but also to find a place in an even shorter amount of time…
One week later we signed the papers for a new place, lovely place, smaller but very beautiful and still place for a darkroom etc.
And now we have moved 🙂
I was asked by Jorgen Polman to do an interview for Forum Beeldtaal which he runs, and this was recorded the same day I took down the working space. Enjoy the video and I will post more soon!
I love to take my camera out in the field, to make collodion images on location. I prefer that over studio images. The only issue that kept me busy of the last few years? How to transport the camera when traveling. Until now I just put the camera in the car, no protection, and dragged it everywhere I needed it to be. I had seen one photo bag that I figured could hold the camera, the TinkTank Logistics Manager, but it was so expensive I never actually tried it.
As some of you know I work in a photo store in Maastricht, Foto Rembrandt (feel free to chime in and say hello if you’re nearby ;-). and two weeks ago I went with my colleague to a special ‘dealer’ day at one of our suppliers. This specific supplier Transcontinenta has, among other brands such as Leica, Gitzo, Lastolite etc, ThinkTank bags. I decided to take my camera to them to find out if they have a bag that would actually fit my camera.
They did! I ended up with the Video Rig 24, one of their largest bags on wheels. It makes it easy to carry the camera around, fits perfectly, along with some small items such as red light, charger, waterhouse stops and of course the glass plates, camera, lens, back and dark cloth. Needless to say I am really happy! All I need is a new car now as the bag hardly fits in the back 😉
For those following me on Facebook might have seen a post on issues with specks on the plates. It took me quite some time to figure out what it is exactly. I have looked at several options. But it really took ages, at least to me, to narrow it down.
Specks, appearing as little black dots, on the plates (see cropped image above). Not immediately, some plates needed a couple of hours, some took days to show. At first I thought of the silver nitrate bath. I had this before and boiling the bath down solved it back then. Not this time..
I rinse my plates, certainly in studio, for over half an hour. Specks.
I started to use freshly mixed fix before each shoot. Specks.
Collodion bottle was steady before using, no shaking. Specks.
Oeff…nutty specks…the thing I did notice was that the fixer bath upon every mix started to look dirtier and dirtier. I bought the Sodium Thiosulphate crystals, I believe, in 2011. 25 kilos at once; better be prepped I figured 🙂 I guess it’s prone to deteriorate over time. I decided to filter it, to the max. A lot of small stuff got filtered out, and the fixer turned out to be the problem! After filtering I was left with a clean fixer bath. No specks!
For the filtering I used a normal cotton pad to wipe of make-up. I pressed it firmly into the funnel (see above image), takes ages to filter a liter but it works!
This carefully hidden project finally saw the light of day and now the light of my blog 🙂
21st of June
I received a call. I hardly ever pick up my phone so I had to return the call. Menno picked up when I did, marketing manager at the B32 group. He said he saw my website and was excited about the collodion imagery. He asked me to have a cup of coffee with him as he wanted to talk about an interesting proposal he had in mind. The 27th of that month we sat down in a bar in Maastricht and he began to tell the story of Silvercreek, a clothing brand under the flag of Open32 / Blue32, with 65 shops in the Netherlands.
They are in the process of putting Silvercreek into the market as a stand-alone brand, like Levi’s and G-Star for example, with their dedicated stores. Silvercreek used to be a small mining town in America, now used by artisans who gave it new life after the mines closed. Inspired by this, Silvercreek thought it would be a great idea bring back craftsmanship and let ‘New Artisans’ tell their story.
So the first season they approached a furniture maker with whom they worked together. The second season they worked together with Evelien van Zonneveld from Werfzeep, who they visually followed in her process of soap-making, wearing clothes by Silvercreek. They also worked together with Frank Abbenhuis from Witloft, who they also followed in his process of apron-making.
In short “New Artisans” are asked to tell their story in front of the camera while wearing Silvercreak clothing. But also to create something in collaboration with Silvercreek. Evelien designed a special soap together with Silvercreek to be sold in their stores. Frank designed a special apron for them.
Back to the coffee… “So…,Menno continued his story, this brings us to the point why I am here. Would you be interested in being our next “New Artisan” for the FallWinter collection of 2016?”
Wow… I remembered him asking if I wanted to sleep a night over it before answering. No need for that, I replied. Of course I want to do this! He had a thing for black-and-white photography and the craftsmanship involved in making the wet plate collodion imagery. The mood in the collodion images fitted their look-book perfectly so I immediately felt a click with their approach. The only thing was that they were in a bit of a hurry as the new collection would hit stores in September. If I were able to plan a date soon where he would get the entire team together to shoot the event… The rest is history 😉
14th of July
9 0’clock in the morning, the bell rang. The make-up artist, Judith Pronk, arrived. It took the rest about half an hour more to gather. The rest of the team was made up by: Renee Ferron (stylist), Gijs Spierings (photographer), Sherman Emers (videographer) and of course Menno himself. At first hair & make-up, then clothing. I will let the images speak for themselves, but it was a great day. Lots of laughing, laughing until the tears rolled down my cheeks. Let’s say Judith had some work that day 😉 We shot images while me playing around with some of my cameras, some posed, some not so much. But the most cool part was that I was going to shoot a wet plate, and that they could follow the entire process of making them.
Explaining the process from start to finish took up a lot of time, including cleaning and everything. We first decided to do a portrait of me, the camera handled by Erik (focusing and exposing), while the chemistry and handling of the plate remained with me. We then planned to do a shot of the new jeans in their collection to make the circle round but time simply went too fast. When the clock hit 8 in the evening we all said goodbye and a truly wonderful day came to an end. To be continued.
We all kept in touch, I received all images from the shoot (wow), and Menno and I talked about the jeans some more. We both liked the idea to do an actual proper wet plate exposure of both new jeans models, copper for men, and amber for the ladies. So, it happened. On the 24th of August Menno arrived in my studio again, to shoot the jeans. Fantastic! Fabric looks so dead-gorgeous on wet plate! Everyone was happy. The images are going to be used as the campaign shots for these jeans, which is fantastic! They will be shown in a lot of places, even in bus shelters (sorry for all the exclamation marks haha)!
On top of that shoot, he had another proposal for me; As I was now the female “New Artisan” using old photographic techniques, they figured it would be awesome to put Gijs opposite of me as the male “New Artisan” using modern photographic techniques. And that it would be cool if I were to shoot Gijs for these series. WowWowWow! Never expected that to happen! So, I had to shoot a part digitally, funny as I ended up using a Canon EOS 5ds (I don’t like working with Canon AT ALL, but it was okay ;-)) But I was also asked to shoot a wet plate of Gijs, one with one of his cars, and one portrait just like mine.
Images of my shoot:
26th of August
I took of to Veghel where we planned the shoot at the “Koekbouw”, an awesome industrial spot there. The even more cool thing about this shoot was that Gijs normally photographs cars, Mercedes for example. And I just happen to love cars so it all came together! He arranged two cars for this shoot and I would follow him while photographing these. One was a Ferrari 348TS, and the other an old Mustang from 1965, both in impeccable condition. Both awesome as hell! Once again a great day! For collodion however, it was quite hard; temperature that day was 31 degrees. Still issues with my fixing bath giving spots, as became clear after the shoot; rinsing capabilities were limited and no KCN anymore for me. So, not a perfect shoot wet plate-wise but awesome nonetheless!
Apart from the story of Gijs and me, there were two more artisans asked for this edition: a couple working together as blacksmiths under the name of Atelier 79. They designed and produced a special coin for Silvercreek which will be in the pockets of the new male jeans when you buy one. This refers to the coin in mine-workers’ jeans to identify the deceased. And a cool necklace for the ladies in the shape of a paroquet, which were used in the mines to warn for gas leaks. Great people to have met and I’m looking forward seeing their atelier in person!
Images of Gijs, shot by me and edited by Gijs, the man himself
12th of September
The big national presentation of the FallWinter Collection 2016 🙂 Everyone, every employee in their stores, all who helped, all who modeled, got invited to join the presentation party which was held at the Koekbouw in Veghel. Of course we went too, and it was fantastic beyond words. Menno told me a little of what was going to happen but he kept the best part silent. We got there at around 7 in the evening. Got something to eat and drink, and watched all people walk in Silvercreek clothing, which was a pretty surreal sight on its own.
The jeans on wet plate collodion, 8×10″:
An official opening speech, live music, and a place where all new collections of all brands they represent at Open32, were shown. At a little over 10 we got to the special event that was announced earlier on that evening. It’s where they were to introduce their new jeans line in a spectacular kind of way. We were invited by Menno for a little sneak-preview before that moment. Luckily. Because what I saw when we entered that space…it was quite moving. This space is huge, about 100 metres in length, and impressive on its own. It was the same space we used for the shoot a few weeks back. To dress it up properly is quite the challenge. They succeeded. Big time. The space was entirely empty except for 4 HUGE drapes hanging from the ceiling behind each other in the middle of the space. Each drape spanned 5 by 3 metres… and contained my wet plate images! The first was the portrait of myself, the second the amber version of the jeans, the third the portrait of Gijs and the fourth the copper version of the jeans. I was stunned and overwhelmed. I never expected anything like this.
After that private sneak-preview everyone was invited into the hall, and the jeans were presented in a different coolish manner-style. Menno bought an SRV-wagon about a year ago and completely revitalised it, turning it into an actual driving Silvercreek selling point, which contained all the new jeans. Everybody received a special coin upon arriving that evening and with that coin, it became clear that it was to be used as a voucher for a free pair of new jeans for everyone! Cool huh! Everybody jumped the wagon of course 😉
The evening ended with some lovely dancing on beats and strings from the band. And with that this story also comes to an end. For now that is. This story is anything but over so….to be continued 🙂
Above images of the presentation courtesy of Erik Slangen.
Check this link over here —> sc-fw-2016-magazine-3108_lres_spreads for the original pdf of the new Silvercreek Magazine and knock yourself out!
Credits: All images where I am on, unless stated otherwise, copyright by Gijs Spierings Photography.
I love forests, trees, wood and what-else-is-there-not-to-like-about-these-matters. We had some trees cut up in our garden past year and we kept the lumber, for burning it later on. But these branches looked so great I took them into my studio. They’re part of a lumber-studies, not sure in what form or series these will fit but I just love them. It’s great to be shooting plates again, especially when they work out so nicely, at least to me!
The only thing I am having issues with is the varnishing. Except for a plate or two being ‘eaten’ by the varnish, I never had any problems with it. And that issue is easily fixable by adding a bit of water.
Now I had issues with the varnish not running over the plates properly, resulting in awkward nasty ridges and parts not covered in one pour. I figured it might be because of too little alcohol so added some more. Eventually it seemed to pour better but the plates dried unevenly. With that I mean streaks turned out matte and others glossy, random, not showing hints as to why. With these last plates I cut back on heating of the varnish and plate which seemed to help quite a bit so for now I’m satisfied. Though not completely as it’s still not perfect and that just puzzles me. In the process of ordering a fresh batch of alcohol and spike oil so that I can make a new batch, even tough this one is actually pretty new. TBC.
All images shown are Wet Plate Collodion Black Glass Ambrotypes, either 8×10″ or 10×10″.
So…After the first experiment with polish-machine-style-plate-cleaning there’s always a second, with improvements of course. The first thing I wanted to solve was moving of the plate during polishing. This machine has a disc that rotates at 3200 times per minute = 53,33 times per second… Try that by hand 😆 This puts forth some power on the plate which makes it a little nervous on a flat surface. I already tried solving it by putting some gaffer tape on the table but that was not enough.
Now I decided to put some small boards on two sides of the table, pointing towards the corners thus each other, and letting them stick a little over the surface of the table so that a glass plate could be positioned alongside them. That way I could push the plate towards the corner without having it fall off. It worked a whole lot better but still the plate had the tendency to hoover a little over the table’s surface. Than Erik came along and made me a square wooden board on which he put a glass plate. He then put 4 long cocktail sticks along the plate sides and fixed them to the board with gaffer tape. That way the plate was sort of clamped in between the sticks and I could easily polish. I placed that board design along the smaller boards I earlier screwed into the sides of the table so it stayed put on the table and…Tadaaa, problem solved!
I then put the table in the middle of the darkroom and the second problem of spattering the cleaning substance all over the place also got solved. What a glorious evening 🙂 I was able to incredibly lazily clean the plates for a commissioned portrait shoot this Wednesday, awesome!
I love wet plate. In fact, I love everything about wet plate! Except for…cleaning the plates 🙂 So, it might be a bad habit but I look for shortcuts, no concession in outcome of course. I use a dishwasher for the first cleaning cycle. And then you still always have to scrub by hand using the chalk cleaner. Polishing and polishing, overheating etc. You know. That stuff. So, Erik said the other day; might it not be an idea to use a polishing machine for that? Hmmm….
So, I got meself a polishing machine and went for it! Interesting. It works. So, that’s good. Start is as usual; pour cleaning solution on plate:
Put polishing machine on plate:
Turn it on:
Right, no image there as I needed both hands to keep this thing under control 🙂
…Do a lot of cleaning afterwards! Ha, that stuff goes everywhere! In a radius of 2,5 metres all was covered in chalk mixture! Quite funny; it works, saves quite a bit of energy (if you leave out the cleaning afterwards) and it’s fun: because, well, machines just are. I will find something to fix this as I like it. I hope you did too 😉
I kept postponing making new varnish for way too long until I really pushed myself to it yesterday. The really annoying part about making the varnish is filtering the solution; probably all suffer from that 🙂 But Erik has found a way to do a filter stacking, proper school, so the solution gets filtered 4 times in just one pour. Tadaa!
Now, still have to get to varnishing the plates but that is the fun part! Just thought I’d share. Anyone else funny filter methods which make life easier?