Isabella Sophie Gerber

Whole plate ambrotype  (6.5″ x 8.5″) of Isabella Sophie Gerber shot in my studio recently under UV light.  An ambrotype is a slightly underexposed image made on a glass plate using the wet plate collodion photographic process.  It appears as a negative until placed against a dark background, which reverses the tones, rendering the image as a positive.

This ambrotype was shot using two six-tube arrays of UV lights.  Each array contained five 48″ 6500K fluorescent tubes + one 48″ blacklight.  I used a 19th century reproduction tailboard camera with an original 1872 brass barrel Ross portrait lens (f/4) made in London.  Exposure time was 10 seconds.

 

Ambrotype by Bryan Hiott (2007)

Ambrotype by Bryan Hiott (2007)

 

This is a 1/2 plate ambrotype I made last fall in the Center For Alternative Photography Workshop, which was led by Eric Taubman and assisted by Keliy Anderston-Staley.  After shooting a few portraits, during the first day of the workshop, I moved outside and worked for a while.  

Visible on this ambrotype are what is known as “lines of pouring,” ridges that form as the collodion is flowed onto the plate and begins to dry.  As this was one of my first ambrotypes, I wasn’t in the habit of rocking the plate or tapping it gently as I poured off the excess collodion.  In later plates, I had the technique down and was able to avoid these lines forming.  Quinn Jacobson demonstrates proper pouring of collodion in the YouTube video below.

The Center for Alternative Photography has examples of images from their previous workshops on the alumnae gallery.  One of my images from Eric’s workshop is included on that page.

 

Historical Comparison of Glass Plate Lines of Flow

 

 

Above:  1865 view of Fort McAllister on the Ogeechee River near Savannah, Georgia (half of a glass-plate stereograph by Samuel Cooley).  Below:  detailed section of Cooley’s image with lines of flow from his plate plainly visible – similar to those on my CAP Workshop ambrotype.  The technical challenges of wet plate photography have not changed in the intervening 143 years.

 

 

 

Quinn Jacobson Demonstrates How To Flow A Plate

 

 

 

 

Ambrotype by Bryan Hiott (2007)  

 

 

Ambrotype by Bryan Hiott (2007). Actual Size 5x7. Lens: Darlot Petzval