Accomodation handmade silver gelatin emulsion contact print from a dry plate negative image 7 x 9
It is often said that the image is
everything, the implication being that the tools and materials we use
to make our images are of trivial importance. I would never argue
that making a compelling image is unimportant, but for me the materials
are an integral part of an image. My ultimate goal is always the
print: a unique, handmade object and hopefully a beautiful one.
The frame from which I hang my goal is handmade silver gelatin
emulsions – dry plate, film, and paper. For me, working with
these materials has been a decade-long journey. When I began,
there was almost no readily available information. For 130 years,
silver gelatin was the very definition of photography, but from the
beginning, commercial manufacturers locked up the how-to essentials
behind a wall of patents, copyrights, and industrial secrets. And
although today silver gelatin is widely viewed as an alternative
process, the same as platinum or carbon or albumen, silver gelatin
materials are still being made in factories. The difference from
the older processes is that silver gelatin was never widely made by
hand. In 1900 it was the common belief that emulsions were necessarily
made in a factory. In 2000, the belief remained. I am trying to
change that. Something irreplaceable will be lost if we allow the
tactile knowledge of any historical photographic process to slip
away. It would be like losing a language.
Today, I am Chief Cook & Bottle Washer at The Light Farm, a web
resource since 2008, dedicated to the renaissance of handmade silver
gelatin emulsions, and author of The Light Farm, Handmade Silver Gelatin Emulsions, Dry Plate, Paper, and Film, Volume 1: The Basics.
I try to match image with material. Accommodation
is a handmade silver gelatin paper contact print from a Whole Plate
format (6.5 x 8.5 inch) dry plate, exposed with a hundred year old
camera. The glass was too warm when I made the plate and as a
consequence the emulsion pulled back from the edges. Rather than
throw away the plate, I saved it for the right image: mussels attaching
themselves to drifting moorage.