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…
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.
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 🙂
So.. after the brief Van Dyke tour of course wet plate could not be left behind. Checked the chemistry about a week back and was able to shoot a test plate today to see if all worked accordingly. Cranked open those speakers (a working space without music is like coffee without the coffee, impossible!) and cleaned three 4×5″ plates. Decided to shoot outside as I’m currently still rearranging the studio place. Looked to be dry all day and had a nice flower in mind (skulls are so boring, even for testing).
Collodion batch from 2016 so slow but contrasty. Developer from 2017 so should work together just fine. First plate; dark with some highlight spots as I still had some sun (and wind). But no fogging so chemistry fine, plate merely underexposed. Second plate, changed flower, and just dark because it got darker fast. Third plate; looked like rain was coming after all, so made a bit of a hurry and forgot to put back the slide after exposing…Putain! So, aside from shooting wet plate I also got around testing my wonderful extensive vocabulary lol 😉 All works just fine!
Anyway, too lazy for cleaning a fourth, let alone a fifth plate and having gotten what I wanted in a way, I decided to leave it at that. Next step; pick a decent subject and shoot some actual plates!
Yep, it’s that time again 😊
Trying to rebuild my darkroom again. Not going as good and fast as I hoped but it’s slowly getting there… 😊 Moving can be quite demotivating but I know why I’m doing it..
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 😉