Wet plate photography is an early photographic technique that’s been seeing a revival in recent years. Developed in the 19th century, about 10 years after Henry Fox Talbot’s calotype, which used a paper negative, wet-plate was a technical advancement that produced negative images on glass. There are different collodion processes, the most well-known being tintype and ambrotype, which were largely used for portraiture and still life due to the need for exposure and development in relatively quick succession.
Now used by many fine art photographers and artists looking to achieve an aged finish to their images, Modern Collodion held their first annual Wet Plate Competition. Seventy-five wet plate photographers from 19 countries submitted over 200 photos to the inaugural contest, with Paul Barden winning the grand prize for his elegant tintype of Dutchman’s pipe seedpods. Taken on his 22-acre farm in a home studio, his beautiful image proves that you don’t have to travel far to take a winning photo.
Each winner was selected on the basis of his/her concept, technical excellence, as well as originality and creativity with the technique and approach used. From professional photographers and photography teachers to self-taught hobbyists, the finalists all bring a unique perspective to their age-old technique. And for some, the switch to the collodion process was a revelation. “The collodion technique has slowed down my life routine and I have started to perceive my surrounding with different eyes,” shares Gabriel Kiss, a professional photographer who was the runner-up in the still life category. “Everything slows down as I really have to think what and when I take the picture.”