Saturday, August 4, 2012

David Adams' portraits on film canisters

In his series 36 Exposures, David Emitt Adams used 35-mm film canisters discarded by students in his Introduction to Photography course as a medium for portraiture:  "I employed a labor-intensive, 19th century, chemical photographic procedure known as the wet plate collodion process to make the students’ photographs on the very film canisters that played a crucial role in their initial understanding of photography." Very cool.
Below, a vintage collodion print of a famous British author and his family. The process seems to be having a resurgence, as there is even a "wet plate colloidon day."
Oscar Gustave Rejlander (Swedish, 1813–1875). Lionel, Emily, Alfred, and Hallam Tennyson, circa 1862. Albumen print from wet plate collodion negative. Collection of Michael Mattis and Judith Hochberg.
Thanks to our shutterbug guru Judy Rolfe for the link! And here are some Daedalus resources on innovations in photography.


  1. Tennyson is wearing some BIIIIIG PANTS!!! :-O

    no, but that photo is really amazing. i really appreciate the lack of anything man-made in the photo, other than the clothing, which i'm sure was produced by hand rather than machine.

    i don't know why David Adams decided to use such an old method to produce his prints, perhaps it was necessary to develop the photos on the backs of those canisters.. but i always enjoy when trash is used in creative endeavors. they remind me of old cigarette pack baseball cards.

  2. Me too; I love art pieces (or anything) made from recyclable materials.

  3. The Tennyson photo, likely caused by its age, but more from the development method, looks like it was plucked from a memory.

    You can also almost see a woman's face superimposed over the image, like a portrait, if you let your eyes step back a bit.

  4. The blurness of the background is more likely due to a shallow depth-of-field and a slight overexposure needed to bring out the features of the family. Wet plate collodial negatives are known to be fine grained, hence their lingering popularity.
    I went through a phase of interest in photography when in my teens. Then everything became pixels and all that study went adrift. Now a Congressman can lose his career in a photo faster than I can develop one.

  5. Is there an advantage to this method over the heat transfer thing they do nowadays?

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