”   Each and every day the world is filled with millions and millions of digital photographs

that have no value, character, significance or physical form. That is not the case with a

wet plate.  The wet plate process is magical and the end result is tangible and

precious.”  Shane Balkowitsch, Ambrotypist

Shane is a photographer born and raised in Bismarck, North Dakota.  He challenges himself with the wet plate process and as some of you know, this process is not easy. In 1848 it became very popular until it was substituted by an easier and more practical way of making photographs. Photographers that now practice this technique rely on the 160 year old chemistry and as Shane says ” a bit of magic and some luck.” Shane tells us a little bit about the wet plate process:

“A wet plate photographer makes a film base on a piece of glass or metal using

collodion, submerges it in a silver nitrate solution to make it light sensitive, and then

exposes the photograph usually in an old style wood bellows camera box and antique

brass lens from the 1800’s.  The process is called wet plate because during the entire

process the chemicals on the plates must remain wet and cannot be allowed to dry. 

The end result is a one-of-a-kind, archival object of art that will last many lifetimes. 

There are wet plates of Abraham Lincoln that look just as good today as they did a

century and a half ago.  It is thought that less than 1000 people worldwide carry on the

tradition of wet plate today. Many of those individuals are professional photographers at

the height of their career.”

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