Imagery and Alchemy

Craig Tuffin - Photographic Artist
Legend CEO of Z-Flex Skateboards Ben Mackay with his wet plate collodion ‘The Hero’ triptych ready to hang on the wall of the Australian Head Office. He does amazing work and supports the community in so many ways.A very proud moment for me when my work hangs.How good is the moustache…gotta wax that and shoot a portrait soon I think…

Legend CEO of Z-Flex Skateboards Ben Mackay with his wet plate collodion ‘The Hero’ triptych ready to hang on the wall of the Australian Head Office. 
He does amazing work and supports the community in so many ways.
A very proud moment for me when my work hangs.
How good is the moustache…gotta wax that and shoot a portrait soon I think…

It was an amazing time in Victoria for the 3.5 weeks I was there. I got to speak at Australia’s first ever Alternative Photographic Process Symposium, run a ‘Gathering’ of wet plate artists and work with one of the worlds greatest daguerreotypists…Jerry Spagnoli.

At the end of all the hard work, I’d managed to convince Jerry to sit for a quick portrait session. It was scheduled for early on a Sunday morning because I wanted the sun behind him. Thankfully it was a quiet road outside of GoldStreet Studios (where we were both staying during the symposium), and even though rain constantly threatened and sporadic showers started to fall, we only had the one opportunity to shoot the plate. 

Yes…I said ‘plate’ in the singular sense of the word. We had to drive into Melbourne to get onto some of Jerry’s current work, and I only had time to prepare, expose and develop one plate. The plate was a 20”x24” piece of 3mm black glass and I wasn’t going to take any chances that the collodion might decide to peel, so I subbed the edges. 

Thankfully, I had quite a few people with cameras around to record all of the activity. Look carefully in the images below and you’ll see Gordon Undy (Owner of Pointlight Gallery in Sydney), Chris Reid holding the reflector (Owner of Blanco Negro), Ellie Young (Owner of GoldStreet Studio), Gale Spring (Associate Dean of RMIT), Lynette Zeeng (Education Development Coordinator - Swinburne University) and more…really a who’s who of photographic expertise in Australia and many of those contributing to the symposium itself.

Jerry was fantastic at striking one of his classic poses and although he claims to be terrible at holding still, he managed the 10 second exposure easily. Working the 20”x24” camera while it was 7 feet in the air was fun…thankfully we had a ladder on hand.

This plate will be varnished and then beginning its long trip across the pond to hang in Jerry’s studio in New York…..nice!

Had a terrific visit from 2 aspiring wet plate collodion photographers…Cam Attree and Alex Kennison. They shot some great plates and I even got a chance to demonstrate a couple of Alex myself.

A great day…even though the air-conditioner in my darkroom trailer died :(

Come along to the Wet Plate Collodion Gathering…we’d love to see you there…

Come along to the Wet Plate Collodion Gathering…we’d love to see you there…

ALTERNATIVE PHOTOGRAPHIC PROCESS SYMPOSIUM 2013

http://www.goldstreetstudios.com.au/alternative-photographic-process-symposium-2013/

Only 2 weeks to go until the biggest alternative photographic event Australia has ever had, opens in Victoria at Gold Street Studios. 

We are very excited to have Jerry Spagnoli coming out from New York to act as keynote speaker for the event as well as run some of his incredible daguerreotype workshops.

The Symposium consists of 5 parts and runs for 2 weeks:

1. Pinhole Gathering 1st April 2013 http://www.goldstreetstudios.com.au/workshops/?ee=105

2. The Collodion Wet Plate Gathering 2nd April 2013 http://www.goldstreetstudios.com.au/workshops/?ee=104

3. Jerry Spagnoli Daguerreotype 2 Workshops 4th 5th & 6th and  8th 9th & 10th April (fully booked)

4. 4 Demonstrations discussion sessions 11th & 12th April 

    a) Photomechanical   b) Light Sensitive Salts  c) Daguerreotype  & Wet Plate Collodion (fully booked) d) Dichromated Colloid

5. The Symposium – New Directions for Old Processes - 13th April 2013 http://www.goldstreetstudios.com.au/workshops/?ee=103

…time for a self portrait…
Well it was a busy coupla days testing various developer formulas and fix concentrations to get exactly what I want on a finished plate in different environments, so I decided to spend all that time with my cheapest model…..me.Freezing movement on wet plate ain’t period correct but it’s a lot of fun when your drumstick explodes and you manage to stop the head of the stick at 1/1400th of a second as it flies over your shoulder. I can’t imagine this happening around 1860 but damn I bet Matthew Brady or Roger Fenton would have loved the technology :)

…time for a self portrait…

Well it was a busy coupla days testing various developer formulas and fix concentrations to get exactly what I want on a finished plate in different environments, so I decided to spend all that time with my cheapest model…..me.
Freezing movement on wet plate ain’t period correct but it’s a lot of fun when your drumstick explodes and you manage to stop the head of the stick at 1/1400th of a second as it flies over your shoulder. 
I can’t imagine this happening around 1860 but damn I bet Matthew Brady or Roger Fenton would have loved the technology :)

This week has seen a couple of VERY busy days. The logistics of shooting large plates ‘on location’ is difficult enough. Add school holidays and a very popular beach location into that mix and it makes for some intense moments.

The glass was cleaned and chems prepped the day before. The only thing we couldn’t know was if there would be a carpark available for my van and caravan when we got there. I was due to meet one of my assistants at the beach at 7am (Kahlia travelled with me). It just so happened that a couple of car parks opened up outside of the Cold Rock ice cream parlour, so I had only a short distance to run to get the plate to the camera. I was prepared that the local shop owners wouldn’t want my generator running for long hours while they operated their businesses….I had to work (relatively) fast.

Setting up the 20”x24” camera wasn’t hard. Kahlia and I had already made a couple of visits to the beach to work out ahead of time where I wanted the shot to happen. Everything was looking good. The first plate was a loss….way overexposed…way too much blue light. The next two plates were good…particularly the last. We had the ‘hero’ so it was time to pack up. When everything was away and the generator turned off, we discovered a large scratch on the centre of the ‘hero’ plate….arrrrrgggggghhhhhh. Oh well, it’s frustrating, but it happens. There are so many things that can go wrong with this process, it’s amazing I get any real work finished at all.

Preparations were made for an even earlier visit the next day. We left home at 4.30am and it was already light. ETA was 5.15am and with only one assistant, the pace was set to get this shoot done and dusted. Two plates and two winners…and no scratches thankfully :)

I am far happier with the images from the second day. Sometimes those ‘tear your hair out’ challenges produce better work. 

This plate is part of my ‘As Faulty As We Are’ series of work. I have been getting a little frustrated at what Gold Coast beaches (and the Gold Coast in general) have become…can you find the hidden meaning?

'My Mother Says' is an image that's taken quite a while to piece together. It's a 20”x24” Clear Glass Ambrotype shot in the studio with my Chamonix 20”x24” custom wet-plate camera. One plate cleaned and ready to go and one plate exposed…sometimes the stars line up and things go right just when you want them to…

'My Mother Says' is an image that's taken quite a while to piece together. It's a 20”x24” Clear Glass Ambrotype shot in the studio with my Chamonix 20”x24” custom wet-plate camera. One plate cleaned and ready to go and one plate exposed…sometimes the stars line up and things go right just when you want them to…

Aussie photographers…this is going to be great!

Aussie photographers…this is going to be great!

Last Friday night was the Miami Marketa where a street of very talented artists open up their studios, sell food and entertain with some amazing live music. This is a group of like-minded people that have a passion for their community and I was honoured to be invited to demonstrate some wet plate work at the ‘Relative Creative’ studio. It was a terrific night shooting a few plates of the locals and sharing some apple cider. Tristan and Owen were excellent hosts and very talented artists…it was really a melting pot of creativity that night :)
These plates are 20”x24” ambrotypes.

Last Friday night was the Miami Marketa where a street of very talented artists open up their studios, sell food and entertain with some amazing live music. This is a group of like-minded people that have a passion for their community and I was honoured to be invited to demonstrate some wet plate work at the ‘Relative Creative’ studio. It was a terrific night shooting a few plates of the locals and sharing some apple cider. Tristan and Owen were excellent hosts and very talented artists…it was really a melting pot of creativity that night :)

These plates are 20”x24” ambrotypes.