Joni Sternbach through a workshop she taught at ICP. For 2 days, in her Brooklyn studio, I struggled to learn the very, VERY basics of a photography process she uses known as Wet-Plate Collodion.
All one needs to pique their curiosity about wet-plate photography is a look at some of Joni’s images. These are only a few from her on-going work on surfers. Through wet-plate Joni uses the primitive fundamentals of photography and applies them to a modern subject matter. The results are stunning.
I say I struggled to learn wet-plate because it is an art form completely foreign to those of us shooting film and digital. Wet-plate is photography in its most simplistic, rudimentary form. Simplistic, hands on, labor intensive, and completely magical. Wet-plate photography is a craft. The process is multi-layered and takes a real passion and dedication to master. In 2 days I barely scratched the surface. Unlike picking up a digital camera, playing around a bit and uploading photos to your computer, wet-plate collodion requires the instruction of a pro. It is complicated and can be dangerous due to the chemicals involved.
Wet-plate is simplistic but far from easy. There are no batteries or flashes. No cords, memory sticks or light meters, and the equipment resembles a wooden shoebox with a lens sticking out the front. Uniquer still is that your image is made on glass or tin. There is no film negative or 4x6 glossy print. Additionally, it virtually requires a masters degree in chemistry to mix the solutions needed. Check this out - you’ll see what I mean. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7JocSuLBSk0&feature=related
If you’re interested in learning more about wet-plate photography start by researching the process online. For inspiration look at Joni’s work, as well as the work of Sally Mann and John Coffer. Keep an eye out for workshops in your area, by individuals and through schools. Here are a few workshop resources to get you started:
MORE ON WET-PLATE COLLODION
For more information on John Coffer visit: http://www.johncoffer.com/
MORE ON JONI STERNBACH
Joni Sternbach’s work has been shown around the country in solo and group shows. She has a Master of Arts in Photography from New York University/International Center of Photography and has taught at ICP, New York University and Silver Eye Center for Photography. For more information on her work visit: http://www.jonisternbach.com