Wet Plate Collodion-Photos

Wet Plate Collodion…not giving up :-)

Reading back this blog I realised it’s been one and half years ago since last collodion test…time for another one that means…
The last post has also been just over a year ago…time for a new one…also…

I’ve been incredibly busy with a lot of things, also photography, but on another level. First of all… I bought a house last year! I set a goal for myself to fix my housing problem with renting being too expensive on my own. I got very very lucky and when I put my mind to something…well…let’s just say I don’t easily give up 😉 But I was also very very lucky. I was able to buy the house I rented first. Utterly amazing! The chances were very slim and the alternatives really would not have been all that great…it’s of very special meaning to me. Miracles do happen! It will take quite a bit of work but that’s part of the fun. Most wonderful thing about this place, besides plethora of others, is that I have a working space! The house came with a garage attached to it, which wasn’t part of the rental version but it sure now is. I have expanded my darkroom there. I recently sort of finished it and finally am able to properly work with all the chemistry and have enough space to actually move around. So, after an unsuccessful test past Monday I was able to redo it today and ended up with images! As soon as I have another free weekend / day I will be shooting outside again. Needless to say I’m immensely looking forward to that!

Secondly, I have photographed more than ever before (I think), but mostly commercial. This has been quite a challenge in more than one way. New conditions for every shoot, adjusting to that and learning new things every time, make this really interesting. Shooting mostly with a Fuji X-T3 (autofocus ftw) with my reliable X-T1 as a backup. Godox AD200 as a portable (wireless!) studio light on location, awesome little device which you can use with heaps of accessories (properly thought-out system). Assignments vary from events to real-estate to corporate photography. Also important…it pays for shit. A lot of it so that’s good!

Thirdly, the Monochrom…well…that’s not going so well…I’ll spare you the details but it’s been sent back to Leica for the fourth time now…I hope this time I will get back something that actually works as it should…anyway, fingers crossed!

Fourthly, working towards a group exhibition that will open next month, on the 27th of february in Alter Schlachthof Eupen (BE) with the F68 photographers collective I joined a while back. I have visited a bit of first world war areas (Somme, Verdun) with my monochrom as I got triggered, firstly, by my visit to the Elzas in 2018, and secondly because Paul is also interested in visiting these areas and it sort of became a collective undertaking. These landscapes are, even on its own, quite fascinating. But when you dive into its history and you know what exactly is beneath your feet it gives the whole a different experience walking about. There have been so many killed during that war, such a dirty war being the first time poisonous gas has been used. So many bombs have been thrown, grenades, mines etc. And they are still there, lurking from underneath the ground, waiting for you to dig them up (or leave’m). So many still unexploded devices literally litter the grounds today. So many people buried on the battlefields, never been dug up. So much ground polluted from the chemical bombs. It will take between 300-700 years to clean everything up…

Dead Man’s Road, Pozières, Somme (iphone)

The more I learned about this war, the less it made sense (as if it ever does, but still). As a ww1 officer once said; “It’s not sending people to war, it’s sending people to die”. The woods in for example the Somme have been the backdrop of horrible battlefields. You can find the locations of these woods on old maps dating from around that period and you can look up these spots on google maps using satellite footage and find the forests are still there today. Of course back then they have been completely devastated by the war, but eventually grew back. They are filled with craters of the intensive bombing and also packed with what’s left of the trenches. When you start digging you’ll find a lot of things…grenades, shells, communication cable, barbwire, you name it. Sometimes you don’t even have to dig, just to keep your eyes open and scroll the surface. Walking there is like walking through a vivid and tangible history book.

The road alongside Bailiff Wood, Somme (iphone)

My main focus is the forests, as it always is, and I like to convey its sadness and eeriness. My images are never really happy so I hope people will feel slightly uncomfortable and with the exhibition sharing also the location of the shots I hope people will be triggered to look up their whereabouts and learn (more) about this war. I find it hard to get into my head that after ww1 we also deemed it necessary to have another round with ww2 (of course ww1 pretty much formed the grounds for ww2). Two generations war… For the love of all mankind I hope we get spared a third…

Onto the collodion testing…it’s winter here of course, the darkroom is not all that warm so chemistry is cold. First plates I did indoors (with new lights I have not really used before) didn’t go so well. Perfectly black plates implying chemistry-wise it should be fine. Today I tested outside. 30 seconds on f4,5…still perfectly black… second plate 4 minutes in silver nitrate instead of the previous 3 and an exposure time of 2 and a half minutes. Development time…1 minute…but an image appeared at last! No chemical fogging, it looks pretty good really. Probably exposure time has to be even longer to shorten development time.

Looking back at the first test I did here back in 2018 the contrast was insanely high, the images now look a lot better. Most important of today; fun it was! Looking forward shooting more, I just love doing this. I promise (also myself) that it won’t take another year  🙂


Interview with Forum Beeldtaal.tv

Dear all,

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!

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Contrastique Meets Silvercreek!

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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.

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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.

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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 😉

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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 😉

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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.

 

 

 

 


My Private Little Forest

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″.

 


First Collodion Shoot in 1,5 Years; Oh Yeah Baby :-)

Wwwooooooeeeehhhhooooooeeeeewwwwwww!!!!

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Anyway…long time no see 🙂 I started with the chemistry last week, making fresh fix, developer, collodion and checking the silver bath, which looked and tested really well! It had a proper cleaning, with boiling-down half way and all, before I packed it up for moving, but still, quite the surprise. Last Monday, my regular day off, I decided to continue but it was a busy day with a meeting scheduled and had some prepping to do for that so didn’t get much work done in the darkroom. Feeling a bit anxious about that I thought I would give it a shot asking the day off on Tuesday, which I was able to do….so Tuesday was Theday.

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Erik grabbed the change to film everything but we will redo this as I was too much occupied with looking for all my stuff, trying to find back that routine in a new place. I spent about half the time looking for things 🙂 I was too excited to give the plates the proper cleaning they should have had and it clearly shows, as expected. But, it works! The first pour was indescribable; don’t want to sound like a sentimental old fart (the smelly one), but wow, it felt great! The smile on my face….loved it!

Plate before curling

Plate before curling

Well, the obvious curled one

Well, the obvious curled one, but cool nonetheless 🙂

Well, what else can I say? There’s some work to do to get it all ‘perfect’ again, better cleaning, more ether to the collodion as it was relatively cold in the darkroom and it didn’t flow nicely, creating a striped pattern. The smallest first test plate (see plate above) was so scratched and polluted that the layer of collodion curled off while drying, making it look pretty fascinating. Also, I want to re-read Osterman’s manual again, just because it has been awhile and it’s never a bad thing. And of course, making a batch of varnish and do the final very-good-smelling step 🙂

The following images are the ones I like best. The last one is an image Erik made of me. He composed the images, lighting and everything and I did the chemistry part. The digital overview images are mostly Erik’s.

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Hope to see you soon again!


My Backyard

Two Fridays ago I had a day off as I had to prep the collodion demo for the TedX event. It was gorgeous weather and for the first time in our new place I had the time and opportunity to shoot some collodion wet plates! Our garden is really pretty (to me at least) and thought it would make for a great start of this season. Spring has arrived and all kinds of lovely flowers and leaves are exploding from out of nowhere. Quite different from our previous garden where most of it consisted of stone haha!

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This was also the first session after the dry plate collodion workshop and I cleaned the plates much thorougher than I did before. It certainly paid off! No need to use rotten stone with black glass, or sub the plates either when you take your time to clean them properly without taking short cuts. I first cleaned them with much more calcium carbonate solution than I used to do. After that I made sure the ridges where absolutely free of excess cleaning substance and I polished them with a clean cloth, like really long. Worked like magic 🙂 First time proper real usage of my darkroom! Happy as a goose 🙂

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The images are on 8×10″ black glass, photographed using my good-ole Steinheil lens, aperture at around 16. Exposure times were around 4 seconds.

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The contrast in light on the last plate (which I actually did first) is a little too high. But I like it anyway 🙂 Of course, what comes after shooting and drying is varnishing the plates. Instead of heating each plate using the alcohol burner I decided to place them on a tray warmer. I have one that can hold 5 8×10″ plates at the same time. This works really well! Saved quite a bit of time.

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I know my varnish gave a bit of issues the last time I used it so kind of expected it to really act up now. It did. Always make sure you varnish a test plate first before doing the real ones! It dissolved the image and looks like the following image:

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It was a plate of the garden but an overexposed one so no loss there, just a funny example of what varnish can do 🙂 I added a bit of distilled water to my varnish and the problem was solved. The rest of the plates looked just fine. As far as the specific why goes…don’t know. The alcohol in the varnish perhaps collides with an older collodion used to make the plates (same alcohol in both solutions though)? As long as I know how to solve it I don’t see a problem. I love this varnish too much to use the other horrible smelling alternatives. And the traditional Sandarac varnish is a proved recipe; why change a winning team?


Publication: Gulpener – Puurzaam 21 – Evolution

Somewhere in the beginning of February I was asked if I would be interested to photograph a local, but rather large, beer brewery on wet plate. No need to think long about it 🙂 Gulpener (the name of this brewery) published its own magazine every three months called “Puurzaam”. The theme of this issue was Evolution. Not necessary to expand on the why wet plate would fit here. So…I took the challenge and packed my things to photograph. Actually my first collodion shoot and on top of that outdoors since I moved. Everything was still finding its place so quite the job locating everything 🙂 But I managed and had a wonderful day that ended with some gorgeous beers; how much more perfect does life really get!

Rob Oostwegel made the documentary-style images of me (thank you!). Anyway, enough of the chitchat… on to the article (in Dutch sorry) and images.

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And a link to the pdf if you want to read the text more carefully.

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And of course..the images in a larger size. The first 4×5″ test plate I made that day (all black glass ambrotypes) had an exposure of 45 seconds at f5.6. Very hard to determine exposure indoors, no additional lighting and all three plates different surroundings. Chemistry was fine, exposure too short; the plate came out pretty much black. I took a leap and poured an 18×24 which I exposed for 3.5 minutes…right on! Shot 2 other plates at two different locations and then my time was up. Breweries are cool locations!

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So..that was it! On to the next shoot 😉

 

 


My Brother Minos on Collodion Again

I think I made my most beautiful portrait on collodion of him, not long after I started working with the process at home. Today, 4 years later, I finally was able to get him in front of my lens again, on his on request. The first image I wanted to fit in the series I made two days ago of my mother, grandmother and myself. The next I wanted him to wear headphones as he’s into music (like my other brother) and kind of turned into his own world, which means a significant part of him. One plate is not sharp, it’s the second, and severely damaged because of the too often reusing, but I still like it and it quite captures his personality for me.

They are all 8×10″ black glass ambrotypes and I hope you enjoy them.

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Three Generations Eternified

During the last collodion demo I gave at Art.Room Roermond my grandmother was also there and wanted me to take her photo. It was the last plate of the day and we weren’t completely happy with it because her glasses reflected in a disturbing manner. I had no more plates left to make another one so said I would invite her over to my place on another day to redo the image. One thing that struck me immediately upon seeing her image was how much my mother resembled her from past plates I took from her. Specific lines and both faces really reveal they are family, without a single doubt. The idea came to be that it seemed interesting photographing both my mom and my grandmother in the same setting to grasp on collodion what I had seen. Of  course, me being a part of them, the third in line, had to be put on a plate too. And so it came to pass…

My family came to visit me yesterday to make these plates. It was really great and I’m happy to have decided to do this. The first image I did was of my grandmother. The second of my mother and the third of me (with the help of Bart with my plate). The first thing my mother said when she saw here plate next to her mom’s was: “Wauw, I never realised I look so much like my mother”. So…here is for you to see, my family, from old to young(er).

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I thought this to be quite fascinating so will continue with this. Unfortunately the father of my father no longer is alive but father and son will do as well 🙂

A bit more info on the plates: All are 8×10″ black glass ambrotypes.
Note to self: when plates get reused too often….DITCH THEM! It shows.


Linhof & Enci Maastricht

My schedule has the finicky habit of changing the very last minute. The plan was to write a blog post last night, go cycling today in the morning somewhere and print the image for the exhibit in Aachen during the rest of the day. Found out on Monday we had a theatre show planned for Tuesday evening…darn. I rescheduled the printing to Monday evening / night, cycling with a friend Tuesday afternoon and go the theatre (cabaret) in the evening. Hmmm what to do with the Tuesday morning…Linhof yeah! I still had everything packed from Sunday, switched a couple of things, reread the Linhof manual, the bits that mattered anyway, and went on a trip this morning.

Seeing that the time would be limited I picked the Enci as a good place to shoot. Been there before in 2011 (see this link), easy parking, easy access, not many people around, close to home and was eager to see how it looked after two years. Nature has found its way; really beautiful there. Unfortunately they made a sort of bar and introduced paid parking (blood suckers) but luckily for us this wasn’t opened and we did not see the parking meter 😉

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I chose to work with the darkbox this time as it would work faster with setting up etc. The flashlight I bought to function as a darkroom light with red foil works like a charm! Plenty of light, you can switch it off to save battery life and easy to hang from its detachable hand strap: good purchase! The Jody Ake back works really nicely, the ridge the plate rests on is relatively small and will fall off during printing because of the ridge in the glass plate holder of the enlarger. I had trouble focusing; don’t have a dark cloth for 4×5″ and I really need one outside; the foldable hood from Linhof itself is not good enough, certainly not with an f/14 lens. But, the lens was properly attached this time! 🙂

A fresnel will be one of the next purchases for the Linhof to improve focusing as well. On top of that I focused for the background; the line of trees at the other side of the water but the foreground comes out sharper than the back..? Maybe there was wind on the other side of the water..(35 seconds exposure time)? And I find it hard to ‘read’ the negatives. As in if they come out a little foggy perhaps? Not sure. I still have to adjust developer for them, in the first place to build up more silver on the plate. Did it here by multiplying regular exposure by 3 times and overdeveloping a little.

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A first timer this shoot was the use of glycerin to keep the plates wet until I got home to give them a final rinse. I ordered two liters of glycerin and added 2 liters of water to them in a large canister. Left it overnight to properly become one. France mentioned you were supposed to coat the plate with the substance like you do with collodion and it’s supposed to lay on top of the plate. This solution was not thick enough for that so I covered the plates in the boxes to make sure they stayed wet enough. Have to read up on that a little more but it seemed to work out just fine. In the scans I can see some strange cringes in some parts of the plate; have to look with a magnifier to determine if it’s the scan or in the negative. Will report back on this when I do.

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I left the plates in there for several hours, around 5 hours even I guess, before I gave them their final rinse. I fixed on the spot after the shoot, placed them in a rinsing bath to get the fixer off and then placed them in these boxes you can see up here and covered them with glycerin. When I took the plates out at home to rinse them I poured the glycerin back into the stock bottle for re-usage.

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Anyway, enough of the boring part..it’s the plates we care about! They are all 4×5″ clear glass ambrotypes shot using a Berthiot Perigraphe 90mm f/14 with an exposure time of 35 seconds.

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Not perfect but fun we had and better they will get! Looking forward varnishing them and seeing how they will print. Have a good day! Already excited about my next adventure 🙂

P.s.: the cabaret turned out to be a duo singing their songs for the entire show..right. I took Bart out for Sushi, much better!