Into The Ether: Contemporary Collodion Work, an exhibition which closes today at Reyko Photo Center in San Francisco, is something of a who’s who among contemporary wet plate photographers. Artists include: John Coffer, Will Dunniway, N.W. Gibbons, Quinn Jacobson, Robb Kendrick, Kerik Kouklis, Michael Shindler, Joni Sternbach, Ellen Susan and Robert Szabo. I know Coffer through attending his wet plate workshop at Camp Tintype in May; and I met Gibbons, who makes mammoth tintypes, earlier this month at Jamboree. Below are a few images from Into the Ether and artist bios from the Reyko Photo Center website.
Will Dunniway has been an American history re-enactor for 25 years. It was while re-enacting the 125th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, that Will watched with fascination as John Coffer and Claude Levet worked their collodion magic. As a serious historian, professional designer and photographer, Will knew he was watching the perfect blend of his interests and abilities. He talked with John and in the summer of 1990 apprenticed under him and the late Claude Levet. Since 1990, Will has practiced the art of collodion primarily on the West Coast working in Gold Rush, Old West, and Civil War events.
In 1978, John Coffer hitched a bay workhorse named Brownie up to a 19th century style darkroom wagon dubbed the “Photographic Van” and criss-crossed the continent for seven years, plying his trade as an old time traveling portrait photographer. This was an experience as unique as the many tintypes he made and sold along the way. In 1985, after more than 11,000 wagon miles and having passed through 36 different states, John and his horse, Brownie, settled down on their own 50-acre farm in the heart of the beautiful Finger Lakes country of up-state New York. John lives in a one-room cabin that he built himself. He lives off the land and has no phone, no electricity, no automobile, and no running water. There, Coffer photographs the livestock, the farm implements, and the annual cycles of nature. RayKo will be showing selections from his Daily Tintypes series; each reveals various aspects of the artist’s existence.
Robb Kendrick, now living in central Mexico, uses the tintype process and other historical techniques in conjunction with collected audio and video to create one-of-a-kind pieces that incorporate other experiences for the viewer. This allows not only for unique photographs, but also forms memories of the experiences he’s had by engaging the subject in other ways. In the end, it becomes an intimate collaboration that connects him to the people he photographs. His most recent wet plate project documents the working cowboy in 14 Western States, Mexico and Canada for the December 2007 issue of National Geographic. The images are collected in a new book, Still: Cowboys at the Start of the 21st Century. At RayKo, Robb will also be showing some surprises that no one else has ever seen!
N. W. Gibbons is a photographic artist and life-long resident of Westport, CT. He has worked in large format non-digital photographic media since the mid-1970s, and most recently has produced work using a number of different 19th century photographic processes. Mr. Gibbons creates very large tintypes and ambrotypes, both as single images and also in diptych and triptych formats. He makes cityscapes and landscapes in lower Fairfield County and nearby New York State, most recently working on an extended project documenting the surprising natural beauty of the Bronx River.