Introduction to Wet Plate Photography

Learn to create glass negatives, tintypes and ambrotypes in this hands-on workshop brought to you by the Penumbra Foundation.
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In the beginning, before digital and before film, there was wet plate. It was a challenging process that merged optics and chemistry into the new art form of photography. The wet plate process is being re-discovered by visual artists at all levels of accomplishment as a way to reconnect with photography at the elemental level, while creating one of a kind images that enchant both subject and photographer. There is a level of depth, detail and clarity in a well executed wet plate image that is unsurpassed by modern photographic techniques.

This intensive course will dive into wet plate collodion, which was the leading process of photography in the 1850s and ’60s. It was used to document the Civil War and to create the portraits of Abraham Lincoln. The process is most commonly known in its three forms—tintypes (positives on tin), ambrotypes (positives on glass), and glass negatives (negatives on glass).

The basics of the collodion process will be covered and topics will include:

  • Hand coating collodion plates: preparing the plate, cleaning glass, pouring collodion
  • Creating wet collodion images: exposing, developing, fixing and varnishing
  • Safely mixing the chemistry
  • Building a darkroom and modifying cameras for the process
  • Printing pre-existing imagery using an enlarger onto wet collodion plates
  • Experimentation will be strongly encouraged.

Each student will leave with 3-6 wet plate collodion images at the end of this unique workshop.

Workshop participants do not need previous photography or darkroom experience. We’ll be using DCP’s Graflex Crown Graphic 4×5 cameras. All equipment and supplies including cameras, lighting, glass and metal plates, holders and chemistry will be supplied. We’ll also have aprons, goggles, gloves and other safety equipment on hand.

This workshop is presented in collaboration with Penumbra Foundation in New York City. Penumbra Foundation is a non-profit photographic arts and education organization devoted to teaching original 19th century photographic processes. Its mission is to be a comprehensive resource for photographers at any level; artists, students, professionals, historians, researchers, conservationists and curators who want to learn, practice, and research these photographic arts and processes. It also endeavors to continue to publicize the impact photography has had and continues to have on culture, history and the arts.

All of the photos on this page were taken at DCP when we held this workshop earlier this year.

  • This 2 day workshop is held at DCP on Saturday, December 7 and Sunday, December 8.
  • Cost per person is $525 early registration (ends November 15 at 11:59pm), $595 late registration.
  • Workshop price includes a $50 lab and materials fee.
  • Please note meals are not included in the cost of registration.
  • Doors open each day at 8:45am.
  • Workshop starts promptly at 9am and ends at 5pm.
  • Advance registration and payment is required.
  • Maximum number of students is 10, minimum number to make a class is 6.
  • This workshop is presented in collaboration with Penumbra Foundation.

This workshop has special terms and conditions that supplement and/or replace the general terms found elsewhere on the DCP website.

The early registration discount is in effect up to 21 days before the workshop date and ends November 15 at 11:59pm. We must have a minimum of 6 participants by the early registration deadline for the workshop to make.

If you cancel more than 31 days before the workshop begins we’ll refund any payments made less a $100 processing fee. If you cancel from 22 to 31 days before the start date of the workshop we will refund all money received to date minus a $200 cancellation penalty. If you cancel less than 21 days before the start date of the workshop you will forfeit 100% of the total workshop fee. If you can’t attend you are welcome to send someone in your place. In some cases we may be able to find a replacement for your empty seat if the workshop is already sold out in which case you will receive a partial refund minus the $200 cancellation fee.

Dallas Center for Photography reserves the right to cancel a workshop at any time for low enrollment or for other reasons and will promptly refund all payments made to date. In the event of a workshop cancellation, DCP is not responsible for reimbursement of non-refundable airline tickets, hotel reservations and other travel arrangements. If you’re coming from out of town we recommend that you purchase travel insurance.

Lisa Elmaleh

Lisa Elmaleh’s work is a photographic exploration of rural America. Elmaleh is an analog photographer living in Paw Paw, West Virginia.  She is a traveling educator, often teaching wet plate collodion workshops out of the back of her truck for various workshops across America. Elmaleh’s Everglades work was published as a monograph (Everglades) in 2016.

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