Tag Archives: albumen prints

Rendering The Spirit: Interview with Bruce Schultz

What is your name, and where are you from?
Bruce Schultz from Lafayette, Louisiana.

How did you get into photography as an art medium (as opposed to casual or professional use)?
I’ve always taken photographs for myself as an artistic expression, since the early 1970s.

I make images with wet-plate collodion to make tintypes on metal, or ambrotypes on glass, or glass negatives to make paper prints in the form of salt prints and albumen prints. I have one salt print and three albumen prints in this show, all from glass negatives.

What drew you to the specific media you practice?
I grew bored with making black and white images with film, printed onto factory-coated silver gelatin paper, something I had done for almost 40 years. As digital photography had emerged as the dominant means of making pictures, I regressed and sought out the basics of photography as it was first practiced. So I took a workshop in Missouri with wet plate photographer Bob Szabo in 2007.
Since then, I no longer shoot film. I make tintypes at civil war reenactments, and also photograph a wide range of subject matter from still lifes, landscapes and nudes. I’ve made images for movies (“Beautiful Creatures” and a remake of “The Magnificent Seven.”) And TV shows including “American Horror Story” and “Into the Badlands,” in addition to several CD covers.

How does the choice of media influence your choice of subject matter (or vice versa)?
Since my chosen process requires exposures of several seconds to minutes, action can’t be photographed but even that can be overcome if one is willing to invest in a high-powered, eyebrow singeing flash equipment. I will occasionally pay homage to 19th century images.

In today’s mobile, electronic world of instant communication and virtual sharing of images, how important is it to you to create hand-made images?
I’m not opposed to digital photography, and I use it in my career as a communications specialist, but digital imagery is too realistic, too perfect for my purposes. With wet-plate collodion, serendipitous flaws are inherent in the process. Fingerprints, smudges on the edges, specks of dust, bubbles, scratches, are inevitable and they make it obvious that this is a one-of-a-kind handmade image never to be repeated.

Is your choice to practice alternative, hand-made photography a reaction to, a complement to, or not influenced by the world of digital media?
I don’t really think about the digital realm, what I’ve done digitally or anyone else has done with a digital camera. I do often marvel that in the time span that I make one image with the wet-plate process, someone could shoot hundreds of pictures. Because of the labor and time involved to set up the chemicals and equipment, making an image with the wet-plate process is a deliberative effort. One has to make sure that what has caught their eye is truly worth the effort and time to make just one picture.

And I have to admit that I get some kind of rush from knowing that I’m making photographs the same way that the early photographers did, experiencing the same frustrations when things go wrong, and the same tingle of excitement when everything comes together. Using the same formulae and materials but with the benefit of modern technology like air conditioning in a darkroom and electric lights.

Do you incorporate digital media into your alternative process work?
I have made digital prints from my wet plate images, but they do not equal a print from a wet-plate negative and I no longer do that because the quality is inadequate.

If so, how do you incorporate it? Is it limited to mechanical reproduction technique, or does it inform/shape/influence the content of your work?
I want to learn to make digital negatives from tintypes to make albumen and salt prints. I am even willing to attempt using digital capture to generate a digital negative and from that, make albumen and salt prints, especially for images that I make while traveling abroad since flying on airplanes can’t be done with flammable chemicals and hundreds of pounds of equipment.

What role do you see for hand-made/alternative process work in the art world of today?
Sales of vintage photography have increased with higher and higher prices as buyers recognize the significance of photographs that have survived for more than a century..
Alternative process work has emerged as a significant movement as the art audience recognizes the effort and dedication required to generate these images. And shows like this one illustrate that more people are creating bodies of work based on handmade imagery.
That’s not to say that serious artistic expressions can’t be the product of digital capture, but so many images are being created digitally that we are being overwhelmed with snapshots fired in scattergun fashion. I’ve read that more photographs have been taken in the past 2 years than in the first 150 years of photography. I’m not sure how that figure was derived, but it is mind-boggling. But most of those images will never move beyond a phone or computer screen, and it’s expected that many will become lost in the progression of obsolescence.
It also troubles me that folks get so caught up in taking a snapshot or video that they don’t truly experience a moment for what it is. A photograph or video will never convey an experience. Credit photographer Sally Mann for expressing that notion in her book that memories are being supplanted by photographs of a slice in time, and not living in the moment and experiencing what is happening in a viewfinder and not actually in front of our eyes. Years from now, we will remember an event as it was, or does the photograph corrupt our memories? I know that I now cannot be sure if some of my earliest memories were what I recall, or what my father’s 8mm movies show.

Where do you see yourself in that world?
I have no idea. I’m too busy shooting pictures, mixing chemicals and coating paper for printing to worry about my miniscule impression on the art world.

Church at Ruidoso, Texas
Church at Ruidoso, Texas

Charles Marville exhibit at the National Gallery of Art

The River Seine by Charles Marville

Charles Marville: Photographer of Paris

Around 1832 Parisian-born Charles-François Bossu (1813–1879) shed his unfortunate last name (bossu means hunchback in French) and adopted the pseudonym Marville. After achieving moderate success as an illustrator of books and magazines, Marville shifted course in 1850 and took up photography, a medium that had been introduced 11 years earlier. His poetic urban views, detailed architectural studies, and picturesque landscapes quickly garnered praise. Although he made photographs throughout France, Germany, and Italy, it was his native city—especially its monuments, churches, bridges, and gardens—that provided the artist with his greatest and most enduring source of inspiration.

By the end of the 1850s, Marville had established a reputation as an accomplished and versatile photographer. From 1862, as official photographer for the city of Paris, he documented aspects of the radical modernization program that had been launched by Emperor Napoleon III and his chief urban planner, Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann. In this capacity, Marville photographed the city’s oldest quarters, and especially the narrow, winding streets slated for demolition. Even as he recorded the disappearance of Old Paris, Marville turned his camera on the new city that had begun to emerge. Many of his photographs celebrate its glamour and comforts, while other views of the city’s desolate outskirts attest to the unsettling social and physical changes wrought by rapid modernization. Taken as a whole, Marville’s photographs of Paris stand as one of the earliest and most powerful explorations of urban transformation on a grand scale.

By the time of his death, Marville had fallen into relative obscurity, with much of his work stored in municipal or state archives. This exhibition, which marks the bicentennial of Marville’s birth, explores the full trajectory of the artist’s photographic career and brings to light the extraordinary beauty and historical significance of his art.

I went this weekend with my parents to see this exhibit. It is a wonderfully presented exhibition, and proof positive that when the National Gallery tries hard to do a good photography show, they can. The exhibition had special resonance for my father and I as we have just been to Paris, and trod the same streets documented in these photographs.

The exhibition has over 100 prints of Charles Marville’s work on display, ranging from early salt-paper portraits made from calotype negatives (negatives made on paper) to large albumen prints of architectural studies from glass collodion negatives. His architectural works have a significant sociological aspect as they document neighborhoods in transition from medieval warrens of twisted streets and cantering buildings flung up haphazard against one another, populated by the Parisian working class, to the modern, wide boulevarded, sanitized, luxurious Paris created by Baron Haussmann that we think of today.

Among the modernizations he documented were the new gas street lamps being installed, and the public urinals Haussmann designed to improve public sanitation (a major obsession of his). While many of the street lamps were preserved with electrification and can still be seen today, only one of Haussmann’s urnials still stands on Parisian streets.

Marville even includes himself in this transition, as he frequently used himself or an assistant as a stand-in for scale and emotional impact amidst the tumult and construction/destruction he photographed. He even photographed his prospering studio in a location that a scant few years later would also fall victim to Haussmann’s ‘modernizations’.

At the peak of his career he was the official photographer of Paris, but by the time of his death, he had faded into obscurity, his work ending up stored in state and city archives, and not a single obituary was published to mark his passing. He may have died in obscurity, but his work survived and preserved the city in transition, sometimes with his images being the sole record of the city that was.

The exhibit will be traveling to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in January. If you can make it, it will be well worth your while.

Cased Image Inventory

I was showing my latest daguerreotype to a friend the other day and she asked me how many do I have. I hadn’t really thought about it, so I sat down today and did an inventory. I came up with

Image Type gemtype 1/9th plate 1/6th plate 1/4 plate 1/2 plate
Daguerreotype 1 1 20 6 0
Tintype 1 2 5 0 1
Ambrotype 0 2 7 2 1
Albumen 0 0 0 0 1
Total 2 5 32 8 3

for a grand total of 50 cased images.

I’ll recap as many of them as I have good scans for here. One of these days I’ll get around to re-scanning/photographing the others, which I originally posted to Facebook but not at a consistent file size.

Paris Opera albumen print
Paris Opera albumen print
Shopkeepers
Shopkeepers
Anonymous Daguerreotype, ca. 1840-1845
Anonymous Daguerreotype, ca. 1840-1845

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Daughter and Father, daguerrian locket
Daughter and Father, daguerrian locket
Anonymous young gentleman with goatee
Anonymous young gentleman with goatee
Lady with glasses, Daguerreotype, quarter plate, anonymous
Lady with glasses, Daguerreotype, quarter plate, anonymous

DavisAncestor1862Zouave76PA

Mrs. A.A. Hill, Daguerreotype
Mrs. A.A. Hill, Daguerreotype
Anonymous Gentleman in Fancy Vest
Anonymous Gentleman in Fancy Vest
Gentleman With Top Hat, dated October 15, 1849
Gentleman With Top Hat, dated October 15, 1849
Anonymous Daguerreotype, Young Girl, Hand-colored, in Half Case
Anonymous Daguerreotype, Young Girl, Hand-colored, in Half Case

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Daguerreotype, Anonymous Young Man, 1/6th Plate
Daguerreotype, Anonymous Young Man, 1/6th Plate
Fred Jones, 1861, framed black glass Ambrotype
Fred Jones, 1861, framed black glass Ambrotype
Anonymous Daguerreotype, Quarter-Plate, in half case
Anonymous Daguerreotype, Quarter-Plate, in half case
Anonymous, Daguerreotype, Couple, Charlottesville, VA
Anonymous, Daguerreotype, Couple, Charlottesville, VA
Ambrotype, Penobscot Boy, 1857
Ambrotype, Penobscot Boy, 1857
Sixth Plate Daguerreotype in Union case, anonymous lady in bonnet
Sixth Plate Daguerreotype in Union case, anonymous lady in bonnet

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Quarter-plate Daguerreotype, Gentleman in book-form case
Quarter-plate Daguerreotype, Gentleman in book-form case
Tintype, boy and his dog.
Tintype, boy and his dog.
Anonymous Gentleman. Daguerreotype, Half case.
Anonymous Gentleman. Daguerreotype, Half case.