Everything Old Is New Again

Washing a collodion wet-plate negative. photo ©Dan Epstein

One day in 2001 a friend from the NY Photo Salon asked if I was interested in learning how to make wet-plate pictures. I had no idea what she was talking about. But as my grandmother used to say “I always have more fun saying ‘yes’ than saying ‘no’.” Dana Buckley had observed a workshop to learn the process but wanted to learn to do it herself. She got in touch with the instructors Mark and France Osterman and arranged for them to come to my studio and darkroom in NJ and we found 3 more friends to participate. We spent the weekend cutting, cleaning, coating glass plates then exposing, developing and varnishing them. In the end I was hooked. I was the world’s worst chemistry student in high school and suddenly I was knee deep in becoming a mad chemist mixing silver nitrate, developer, fixer and varnish. The Ostermans are incredible teachers and dedicated mentors and now my inspiration. I started making photograms onto collodion plates right away and I am still doing it. The very early photographic images – even before wet-plate – were photograms and here I was returning to the medium’s origins.