Persistent Illusion 

 

Wet-Plate Collodion 

 

I remember early in 2008 reading a newspaper article reporting that Polaroid was stopping production of it’s large-format Type 55 positive/negative film – the film that I had been using, almost exclusively, for about 20 years. Although the news wasn’t totally unexpected it was, nevertheless, devastating. So I bought as much of the remaining stock as I could afford, knowing that it would not last very long and that the way I make photographs was being forced to change. I loved the instant nature of Type 55. I could make an exposure and within a minute have a unique 4X5 print or a printable negative. But after some half-hearted experimenting with digital I realized that it was not for me because I knew that so much of my passion for the medium is in the process and the handmade and unique quality of the final print.

Meanwhile, I happened upon a notice for a workshop in the historic wet-plate collodion process and was intrigued by the images and on investigating further came to realize that it was a process in which you are essentially making unique instant prints or instant film! So I took the workshop and committed to the process by investing in the necessary chemicals and equipment.

This work is the result of exploring the boundaries and limitations of combining processes that span the history of photography, including digital, in order to create a final wet-plate collodion print. In this still-life series I make connections between history, tradition and our contemporary world in which we are bombarded by choices. While at the same time building on a theme that I have been exploring through my work for many years, that of questioning the perceived reality inherent in a photograph and its connection to the elusive and ethereal nature of imagination and memory.

I’ve found this method of working to be wonderfully versatile and expressive. It’s aesthetic is evocative of the past but it is also beautifully adaptable to a contemporary approach in rendering the “persistent illusion” of reality. 

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© 2017 BY PAMELA ELLIS HAWKES / WEBSITE BY ENGENUITY.MEDIA