2011 / 11月
the editors /photos courtesy of Yang Wen-ching /tr. by Chris Nelson
In this digital age when ubiquitous cameras snap images in the blink of an eye, the photos people take tend to look alike. Some photographers have begun to lament this departure from traditional photography.
Wet-plate photography, over a century old, is a technique using physical and chemical principles to preserve images. In this technique, the glass plate within an old-style camera is smeared with collodion, and once the photo is taken it is processed via sensitization, light exposure, development, fixing and washing. Since the glass plate is kept in a moist state for dozens of minutes, it is called "wet-plate photography." This technology originated in 1851 with British photographer Frederick Scott Archer, who discovered that photographic images taken in this manner were clear and stable.
What's especially fascinating about wet-plate photography is the uniqueness and individuality of the images. Changing the chromatic variables by adjusting distribution, coatings and membranes, the photographer has some control over the process; however, since he can't control the flow of the liquids on the glass plate, no two wet plate photos look the same. These imperfections impart a simple, rustic aesthetic.
In an age overflowing with digital images, photographer Yang Wen-ching has decided to slow down and look at the photographic image from the standpoint of a craftsman, allowing wet-plate image technology to breathe new life into his work.