Since I began using the wet-plate collodion process in 2001 I have shot hundreds of plates. Nearly every one has been scanned. The hand made wet-plate process creates tell-tale artifacts. Every plate has a thumbprint on one corner from when I pour on the collodion. I decided to use those artifacts as a source for a series of unconventional self-portraits. They were my fingerprints after all. So I began reviewing the scans of the plates and chose a few with good corners. I enlarged them and printed them digitally to get a feel for how my idea would look. It quickly became clear that the corner thumbprints weren’t interesting. Another idea that didn’t work. As Thomas Edison once said “It isn’t a failure – it is a discovery of one more thing that didn’t work.”
But in the process of reviewing the scans I realized the edges of the plates looked like landscapes. I started examining my glass plate scans, choosing ones which would make panoramic landscapes. Those 4 or 5 inch wide artifacts were rich with detail. My earlier plates were better for this. As I gained experience with the collodion wet-plate process I was able to make cleaner plates with fewer artifacts. But I still had plenty to choose from.
I worked on the scans in Photoshop to enhance gradients and add subtle color and tonality. I appropriated my own work to create worlds that never existed but looked familiar. I made big prints and found venues to exhibit them. I showed them at portfolio reviews and got some great feedback and advice on how to improve the images. The series is called Borderlands and the panoramic prints are about 8 feet wide.