Wet-plate collodion photography has been around since Frederick Scott Archer introduced it to the world in 1851. Collodion was used to produce glass negatives as well as ambrotypes and tintypes. It usurped the Daguerreotype in its ease and versatility, and has aesthetic merit today.
When slightly over-exposed and over-developed, a beautiful negative is created that can be used to produce multiple prints of the same image. When under-exposed and under-developed, a beautiful thin negative is produced on glass that, when backed with black, appears as a positive. When exposed onto a piece of metal (not really tin, but a blackened piece of aluminum), the image also appears as a positive and is not as fragile as glass. One downside: Because each image has to be made while the glass is still wet, photographers have to carry everything required with them when in the field.
There has been a resurgence in the use of collodion over the last several years by contemporary artists, many of whom are combining techniques that span the three centuries of photographic tools. The hands-on quality of this process is uniquely expressive and intriguing to both artist and viewer.
There is a learning curve to this process, but that, too, is fun. The emulsion is not sensitive to many colors: red, orange, yellow, brown, green, or blue. So the first thing you might want to do is take a photograph of objects with different colors as well as shoot them with a digital camera to test how they will appear in this medium. It’s like making your own color wheel. The faded tonalities, blurs, and flaws in each image make them truly unique and reminiscent of the past.