|Tintype by SweatNapper, Oakland, CA, 2011|
Don't get me wrong--there are some AMAZING wet plate photographers who have a great grasp of the medium whom I've been wanting to meet for some time [they know who they are, as I've been in contact with all of them].
But it's become so damn kitschy lately. My friend Samantha [model Sister Thyme] made this awesome Facebook post not too long ago: "Polaroid cameras: The instagram of the 70s. How to look like an artist with the most minimal effort involved. (Polaroid is not an art form. It's a tool.)"
I think the same thing applies to alternative process, at least to a degree--there are so many people who can barely render an image, let alone do so artistically, or they do so only by setting a very artificial environment [like putting their camera, and a softbox, in fixed positions in a light-proof room, and having every model come and sit down in a chair marked by tape, so he never has to fiddle with exposure, and so there's never any variability from image to image...at BEST, that's commercial portraiture]. And yet we're expected to give sanction to anyone who just happens to have invested in old methods? Sorry. No. It's awesome that you're experimenting--I'm a big, big advocate of dabbling--but the tools you use don't automatically give you holier-than-thou artistic street cred.
I've done a few wet plate shoots--all trade--and other than the time I worked with Eric, I came out of the shoots without a single image having been rendered [at all--just a blank plate].
That's fine--shit happens--but if you can't guarantee that even one image will render [of course you can't guarantee that it'll be usable--maybe the model moved or it was just a bad shoot--but there should at least BE a shot], unless you guys are good buddies and she's just hanging out, you should pay the model for her time. Otherwise what is the "trade" for?
I want to work with Eric again at some point. He does daguerreotype, too--which is so, so fucking fascinating to be a part of. I have a giddy reverence for daguerreotype, and would love to find more people who are competent with such a crazy-involved medium--so far, Eric's the only person I know of.