This process was one of the most important developments in the history of photography, allowing a worldwide expansion and dissemination of images for the first time.
Invented in 1851, shortly after photography’s introduction, the wet plate collodion process revolutionized image making by allowing photographers to travel and make several types of photographs on glass plates. In this process, the photographer must coat and sensitize a plate, then expose it in the camera, then develop the image before the plate dries out. This requires a portable darkroom to be set up wherever the photographer is working. The process is difficult to learn, but the results are extremely beautiful. By varying the technique, the photographer is able to make Ambrotypes (unique positives on glass), Glass negatives (for traditional or albumen printing) or Tintypes (unique positives on blackened steel).
The images have a quality unlike any other photographic process: they are virtually grain less images which have an extremely wide tonal range of creamy silver tones. One of the aspects I like the most about this process is that it is completely hand made. All timing and exposure decisions are made by observation, and all the chemicals and materials are prepared by the artist. As so much of the photographic world is moving toward digital technologies, I feel drawn back toward the basic historic, hand made processes.