Where to start. I knew of collodion photography in name only as I had read in many different places that early photographers used this process to produce images. The how, what, and why of it I had no clue and that’s where Owen Riley comes in. I met Owen the same way I’ve met other professional photographers in the upstate…by buying and selling camera gear on Craigslist Greenville of coarse. Once talking with him, I came to find out he actually does collodion photography on a regular basis and that he would be doing a mini workshop at Click646 in Greenwood SC on 10/1/11. I decided I had to see this for myself so I made sure to put it on my “schedule” which basically means I asked my wife and we set up a plan because taking care of a child under 2 needs team work.
The allotted pre-configured day came quickly and at 2:00 (the workshop started at 3:00) with 15 minutes to spare, I grabbed my camera and went out on the first mini adventure I’ve had in a while now. Turns out you can easily burn through 15 minutes when you’re not 100% sure where you’re going and apparently are also blind. I did eventually find a place to park and made my way to the courtyard beside the “how could I miss this huge” Federal Building. Once there (though I was a few minutes late) I listened to Owen explain some background on the history of photography and wet plate printing as well as the different mediums such as tintype and ambrotype. Right after the intro, it was on to the work of making a photograph.
Owen went through the process of capturing a tintype image using a full-plate tailboard camera (using half plates in this instance) which seems slightly surreal to watch. It almost doesn’t seem possible to make an image when you look at just the base materials even though I mildly understand what happens. (Of course, if that’s mind blowing then converting light to ones and zeros is absolutely impossible.) A few more tintype photographs and one ambrotype made in a 4×5 camera later and it was over. Lots of questions were asked by many different people and Owen even helped 3 different 2 person groups of people make an image themselves from start to finish after the workshop. It was a knowledge gathering experience for most of the attendees and I know I absorbed more information than I initially processed while I was there.
I took a few pictures of my own as a way to remember what happened and what went into the processes that I saw. I find photography can take me back to a place and time much better than my ADD mind has ever been able to accomplish on it’s own. If you haven’t done so before and there are people in your area that do workshops with early photographic processes, you owe it to yourself just to see them in action (especially when it’s free like this one was). I know I’ll have to try my hand at it one day and that’s for sure.
Reflection of the courtyard in the window of the Countybank Gallery at The Arts Center
Owen explaining the process of and showing how to pour the collodion over the tin.
Owen composing and checking the focus on the first image using the half-plate camera.
Lots of steps are skipped and the image is being captured. I’ll let the rest do their own talking
As a side note, I also visited the Greenwood Museum as well to see the Click646 Professors Invitational Exhibit and the Scholastic Invitational in the Countybank Gallery at The Arts Center. I must say I really enjoyed viewing the images from our local professors and students in person. It’s not often I get the opportunity/ time to go to any kind of gallery, so it was nice to see these local artist’s work displayed on their actual mediums instead of on my computer screen.