Experiencing with wet collodion, a 19th century photography development technique

Wet collodion tintype | Diaz Cassou house  . 1906 . Architect Jose Antonio Rodriguez Martinez

Wet collodion tintype | Diaz Cassou house  . 1906 . Architect Jose Antonio Rodriguez Martinez

These past two years I have been working on my new personal photography project. It is called Belle Epoque and it features pictures of buildings from Spain, France and Cuba. Being in such buildings was really moving for me. Some were transmitting very good vibrations. I soon realised that I was not really interested to document the building itself but was rather attracted by the details. Being close to the hands of the sculptors, the blacksmiths, the glassmakers. Being close to the movement of their hands, hearing them breath and being part of their intentions.

Belle Epoque saw the birth of industrialisation. England was the first country to transform itself into an industrialised nation.  Populations were impacted in their lives. Many fears arose. Will machines replace men? It was the end of a world and the beginning of a new one with no idea to where it would lead.

Meanwhile voices spoke up to condemn the domination of machines, others such as artist William Morris, the founder of the Arts & Crafts movement, went into action to protect and promote craftsmanship. He was convinced that an object could be enjoyed only if it was made in good working conditions. Somehow he believed that items have a soul, the soul of the person who made it for us. I must say I totally share this view.

As a photographer, I use a machine to take pictures. Of course, I dominate it. It does what I intend it to. I choose every technical aspect of my pictures like I choose the aesthetic. But what about adding some extra craft into the process?

While taking pictures I realised I was searching for a certain mood, an atmosphere that would draw me closer to the purpose of Margaret Cameron, my favourite photographer. When she initiated photography at the age of 46 in the 1850s, she was using the wet collodion process, an antique technique that added extra drama to her pictures.

Imagining myself in the footsteps of Margaret Cameron just filled me with imagination. I then searched workshops to learn the process. The first picture I developed using this vintage technique has left a lasting impression on me. This moody effect was actually what I have been searching for all these years. Here it was. Here was my mysterious hallmark.

Some of the wet collodion plates of the series are available on sale here as well as limited edition prints on FSC-organic museum-quality cotton paper.