In the society we live in now the camera can be categorized as something highly popular. Meaning everyone has some sort of camera. Either on their phone or their little digital point and shoot, or some type of camera that requires little to no patience. I had the opportunity of interviewing, photographer Ed Ross who still actively uses the antique method of photography.
The collodion process is an early photographic process, invented by Frederic Scott Archer. It was introduced in the 1850s and by the end of that decade it had almost entirely replaced the first practical photographic process, the daguerreotype. During the 1880s the collodion process, in turn, was largely replaced by gelatin dry plates—glass plates with a photographic emulsionof silver halides suspended in gelatin. The dry gelatin emulsion was not only more convenient but could be made much more sensitive, greatly reducing exposure times.
Tell us a little about yourself ?
Strong black coffee. Motorcycles. Dogs. Mountains.
How did you get into photography?
Photography has been a hobby for many years, and has become more of a passion the last five years with wet plate.
Your photography method dates back to the mid 1800′s correct?
Yes, the wet plate method dates back to the mid-19th century.
Can you explain the difference between Ambrotype and tintype and the process of wet plate?
Ambrotypes use a glass support for the chemicals, and tintypes use a metal support.
How long does it take to make a wet plate?
About 10 to 15 minutes. I usually get about 4 an hour.
What camera do you use?
I use a Black Art Woodcraft 8×10 camera (although I usually shoot 6.5×8.5 or 5×7 in that camera), and a 16×20 Chamonix, in which I can also shoot 7×17.
What draws you to the vintage process?
I like the visual impact of the resulting images. I also like that the results are immediately apparent because it is fertile ground for collaboration with whomever I’m shooting.
Do you mainly work indoors?
The process requires UV light. I use natural light, although others are very successful with artificial UV light. So I generally shoot in a spot that has lots of shaded outdoor light, which has often been on the shady side of my dwelling.
Can you tell us what subjects you tend to focus your attention more on more?
I have generally focused on shooting women and landscapes.
What is your view on the digital process?
The digital process is wonderful. I don’t think I’m particularly talented with a digital camera, but there are many who get amazing results. And I have been able to produce some amazing digital prints of my plates. I tend to prefer a chemical process over a digital process, but that is a personal preference and not an indictment of digital cameras.
What are the challenges of using such an antique process?
There are many challenges. The cost to get started is one. And, being a chemical process, the chemical reactions can go sideways, and that requires analysis and fixing to get them back on track.
Do you have a favorite photographer?
No, I don’t. Like my musical tastes, my tastes in photography can vary. But I prefer images of people.
Where do you find inspiration?
I’m not sure “inspiration” is a concept that resonates with me. I like to create. I like good compositions. I like images of people. And I like engaging images. Trying to create a truly engaging image of a person is the hardest part, for me. And often times the best images result from a good collaboration with the model. I think good images come from hard work, not inspiration.
How does someone like maybe a model set up a time to be photographed? Is there a screening process?
There is nothing special — just normal communication through email, Model Mayhem or Facebook.
Do you offer classes if someone wanted to learn the wet plate process?
I don’t really hold myself out as a teacher, although I have given a couple of one-on-one tutorials.
Anything else you would like to add?