I’m still astonished that my fascination with historic process photography, which came to me in mid-life, can engross my attention for so many hours that a weekend can pass in the blink of an eye.
This weekend my husband suggested that we make some salt prints from the glass negatives we made at the dry-plate collodion workshop in Mexico at the Mayan ruins of Dzibilchaltun and Uxmal through the George Eastman House. We had the privilege of making these images with the guidance of Mark and France Osterman and the courtesy of the Mexican government. It is impossible to explain the excitement I felt at this adventure.
There were five of us in the workshop. We each had the chance to make two images per day. While this may seem like nothing to a modern photographer using digital equipment with the ability to take hundreds of pictures in an afternoon, the process is far more daunting and at the mercy of the elements when using mid 19th Century technology. We had to rely upon the placement and changing nature of the sun, passing clouds, estimating what stops to use for the appropriate depth, manual focus, whether we had coated or sensitized the plates correctly, whether the subject matter was appropriate for our mission, the development process and the transportation of the fragile negatives back home.
Out of 6 negatives, I have four that are printable of which two are very good. My husband has five printable. That is a homerun for this process. But that is just the beginning for printing a lovely image.
Yesterday afternoon we experimented making salt prints in our dark room. My first image was not successful because of the way I sensitized the paper. Making one print can take more than an hour. This is not a speedy process. But I learned from my first effort and ultimately had an image that made my heart sing. I couldn’t believe that I made this! It was worth the time, diligence, and effort.
There is no better way for me to forget about the stresses of my regular job than to immerse myself in the creativity of an artistic process. And I feel so blessed that I have such wonderful teachers and a patient husband who encourages me.
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