In an earlier entry, I posted jpegs of Quinn Jacobson’s field darkbox made by Steve Silipigni, a wet plate photographer from Rochester, NY.  I have been corresponding with Steve by email and met him at John Coffer’s Jamboree this month.  He brought along his own darkbox made of poplar, assembled with pegs and finished with an English chestnut stain.  I decided to order that exact version for myself.  It will accomodate plate sizes up to 8 x 10.  

The sample image below shows what my darkbox and supporting table should look like upon completion.  As you can see, the silver nitrate bath is sunken on the left side of the box; but placement may be in the center or on the right side of the box if you prefer.  You can get more information about Steve’s work on his website:  Black Art Woodcraft.  


Darkbox By Steve Silipigni Of Rochester, Ny

Darkbox By Steve Silipigni Of Rochester, NY


This particular darkbox was made for a client in Louisiana who happens to be a New Orleans Saints fan…hence the custom fleurs-de-lis design on the side.  The lightproof shroud is lined with a red checkered 100% cotton cloth of heavy weight.   A shelf at the bottom of the table is convenient for holding a plate rack for drying finished tintypes and glass negatives.  

Set up or take down of the entire system can be done in a matter of minutes; and all components will fit in the back seat of my car.  Portability of equipment is historically correct for the wet plate collodion process.  Mathew Brady’s field photographers during the Civil War used a darkbox mounted on the back of a wagon – jokingly referred to as a “What-Is-It?” wagon.  In the image below, the darkbox is situated at the back of the wagon with a shroud draped over it.   


Mathew Brady Photographic Crew Near Petersburg, VA (1864)

Mathew Brady Photographic Crew Near Petersburg, VA (1864)