The photos presented here are made with my workhorse setup: my Graflex Speed Graphic, Schneider Symmar 210 f/5.6 convertible, and J. Lane Dry Plates. The Symmar has a great depth of field at f/5.6, and the slightly longer focal length compliments well the 135mm f/4.7 Kodak Ektar in my Speed Graphic kit.
Dry plates are fundamentally silver gelatin emulsion coated onto glass instead of celluloid film. I started into dry plate photography about 3 years ago, perfecting the technique of making my own emulsion and hand-coating glass plates for my own use. A few months ago, I spontaneously started selling plates to other photographers, and as word got out the demand for plates continued to grow. Now plates are available not only directly through pictoriographica.com but also through awesome retailers such as Blue Moon Camera and Freestyle Photographic. I can make any size plate, and the sizes I’ve made for others have ranged from 35mm plates up to 12” x 20”.
My goal in making these plates is to make available the look of dry plate photography from the late 1870s and early 1880s. This look has been lost as manufacturers met the demand for orthochromatic and then panchromatic emulsions. Dry plates themselves have not been made in large numbers for many decades. The combination of these factors essentially introduces an entirely new realm of creative exploration for the modern photographic community.
I’ve found that shooting at ASA 2 forces me to change the way I approach each shot. Since I know the time and effort involved in making each plate, I try to make each photo count. Using a large format camera also means that any of a number of mistakes will ruin the results. I still get excited when a successfully developed, well-exposed and undamaged plate comes out of the developing tank.
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This series is being produced in conjunction with Hamish Gill's excellent 35mmc.com. Head on over to read the other half of these stories there.
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