In order to answer of many questions I receive, you can use my personal answers bellow :
Wet Plate collodion, called « Collodion Humide » in french, is a 1850’S process wich was highlighted by Gustave Le Gray (french) and Frederic Scott Archer (english) respectivly in 1850 and 1851…
It is considered in one of the most complex process due to many manipulations, preparation of many chemistry wich are responsive to temperature and almost the fact that the process needs a darkroom on location.
A photograph starts from a plate of glass or aluminium. Then you need to :
So you got a unique and precisous photograph made of silver on glass or aluminium.
The fact is that all we need in this old process is very impressive : chemistry, water, tanks, tripod, cameras, graywater evacuation system, security for delicate plates, trays and more…
All this equipment is sensitive so I need to be very carefull, securising all this equipment.
I like to work with old and used wooden cameras (I got a big one from 1890), and my project is to revisit the old and missing job of « itinerant photographer ». So the best way was a tricycle, easy to customize with wooden boards and handpainted like vintage french signs stores…
This version of my mobile darkroom is the second one, because of improvements (like a taller darkroom to work standing).
Of course it’s a unusual portable darkroom, but I’m not the only one. Other photographers use portable darkrooms to make some plates (using their cars, vans like Ian Ruhter, eskimo tent like Borut Peterlin, or handmade darkrooms on streets like Justin Borucki…)
We all have our own philosophy of making wet plate, and you’ll see that it’s just a question of what we want to photograph and how.
For me, my project is to mix « itinerant photographer » job and wet plate process for making it accessible to people.
And sometimes I work on architectural projects for my own pleasure, this year I take some old cardboards from early 1900, and try to take the same point of view with this 1850’s process.
This portable darkroom take me most time imaginating the best practical space for this difficult process, but when I had the wooden boards and the metal parts, it took me 2 weeks to build.
The biggest challenge was to get running water and the best graywater evacuation system with the smaller space possible.
It also come with the problem of weigh, today all the system weigh about 250 Kg (551 lbs). But if I’m not speed (and I’m not), it’s pretty cool to take time (like shooting wet plates).
I discover wet plate photography in 2006 when i saw an awesome portrait on internet. But i thought that a process from 1850 was impossible today.
What a shame ! It just needs some chemistry knowledges (with a high level of security manipulations because of ether, alcohol and cellulose nitrate), a lot of rigour, a lot of working days and nights…
It took me 2 years experimenting and testing formulas to get good plates regularly !
So why I love wet plate photography ?
Because of the beauty of this process, each plate is unique, with a pure silver combination. And afterall, it’s handcraft photography and a perfect way to keep a bit of memory alive…
When people see for the first time my tricycle, they don’t mind that it’s a portable darkroom (but people absolutely love the design !).
And when i told them that I’m working on the wet plate process named « Collodion Humide » in french, they don’t know anything about…
Everyone is curious and want to expriment a shooting portrait with my old cameras. And when they discover all the steps, and the « magical » step of the fixer bath, they realise why I choose the name of « Alchemy ». A secret alchemy between chemicals, « savoir-faire », and antique photography.
That’s all I love in Wet Plate Photography, a suspended time between public and photographer…
Michaël Tirat is a french photographer born in 1979 and based near Bordeaux (France). He lived his childhood sometimes in different places in France, sometimes in Senegal (Dakar).
His mixture culture is permeated with Charlie Chaplin & Buster Keaton, Nina Simone & Ray charles… All his works are inspired by a special relationship with matter and time.
He has discovered « Wet Plate Collodion » process in 2016, after digital and analogue works for public exhibitions…
From this moment, he was focused on this antique process.
« The important thing remains the visual, but above all, a total control: to carry out with my own hands all the steps of creation. The « wet collodion » is my tool of expression, and a hell for perfectionists like me. The result is a unique and singular photograph, and remains the fruit of a certain amount of chance and know-how, thus forcing a permanent questioning”
« L’Atelier de l’Alchimiste » Social links :
In the way to use photographs of my work, you can use all of them. But be carefull with some named files with ©, you can use them, with the name of the photographer credited. The over pictures not named are mine so it’s all good !
LINK of the pictures (professional cloud) :
Youtube HD :
Portrait shooting with tricycle during event : LINK
Shooting my city hall with tricycle : LINK
Demo of a duo portrait : LINK
Making of an Ambrotype (glass plate) with english subtitles : LINK
French documentary (21 minutes) on tricycle portable darkroom : LINK