Collodion Emulsion (Wet Plate) Photo on Glass from OLD JAPAN (2)
Image by Okinawa Soba
It’s hard to go wrong with kids and dolls. Another pretty studio shot from old 1880s or early 1890s Japan. Photographer unknown to me.
NO ANIMALS WERE HARMED IN THE MAKING OF THIS PHOTOGRAPH !!!
The above photograph is one of sixteen early collodion images on glass that I am posting as a group — and all of these beautiful, hand-tinted slides were made without the benefit of GELATIN.
Before getting into what collodion is all about, let’s first cover gelatin.
As most folks know (or might not know), gelatin is the all-important carrier substance used to make the photo-sensitive emulsion coatings for all films — from 35mm to Sheet Film, and from X-Ray to Spectrometer Films — as well as the films for our favorite motion pictures, and the photographic prints that fill our albums and preserve our memories.
This also means that all of you digital folks become gelatin users every time you get your photos printed out at the local photo shop or drug store. It has been this way in the world of commercial photography for well over 100 years now. Even as we surround ourselves with chemical miracles of the 21st Century, no substance has yet been found that beats Gelatin for the hard-copy world of film and print photography.
GELATIN, of course, is made from the rendered SKIN AND BONES OF SLAUGHTERED ANIMALS. The Wiki also puts it bluntly : "Gelatin is a protein…..extracted from the bones, connective tissues organs, and some intestines of animals such as domesticated cattle, pigs, and horses". That is to say, the meat is STRIPPED FROM THE CARCASS and sent off to McDonald’s, while any skin that cannot be used for leather, the bones and ligaments, and the rest of the guts not fit for consumption (or sausage and baloney) are sent off elsewhere to be boiled down to give you GELATIN.
ANIMAL-LOVING VEGETARIANS & PETA MEMBERS TAKE NOTE !!!
If you are one of those Vegetarian VEGAN types who is also a PHOTOGRAPHER or an avid MOVIE GOER, you can read the following link and weep. After which, you may go and copy all of your print photos over to digital before going out and burning the originals (in order to cleanse your conscience and your immortal soul). Then, you can send me all of your nice film cameras, which you won’t be using any more! Come to think of it, I will really miss seeing you over at the Movie Theater, too…..boo hoo :
HOLLYWOOD and BOLLYWOOD
The American Humane Association is the source of the "No animals were harmed….." disclaimer seen in most movie end-credits. One of their first basic principles in issuing this seal is that No animal will be injured or harmed for the sake of a film production. However, the simple fact is quite the opposite in that, for the sake of a film production, KODAK, FUJI, and AGFA all depend on carnivorous man’s love of a good hamburger and pork chop in order to avail themselves of the slaughtered carcasses needed to produce the very film itself for almost every movie you’ve ever seen.
In the case of BOLLYWOOD, I find it interesting that Hindus (whose general vegetarian stance is far more culturally and religiously rooted than just a personal aversion to meat) are very supportive of the Film Industry in general, and pack out theaters on a regular basis to enjoy the latest flicks.
"….Hinduism is based on the concept of omni-presence of the Almighty, and the presence of a soul in all creatures, including bovines. Thus, by that definition, killing any animal would be a sin: one would be obstructing the natural cycle of birth and death of that creature, and the creature would have to be reborn in that same form because of its unnatural death……" (Wiki)
Apparently, it is a sin to kill and eat a Cow, but all is forgiven as long as you transform the slaughtered carcass into a song-and-dance number on the Silver Screen ! On the other hand, somebody might have failed to inform them of the source of their cinematic pleasures, and the old adage "Ignorance is Bliss" accounts for the success of Bollywood in a nation that is 80% Hindu.
So you see, the art and perusal of Photography and Film can and does touch on some of our most personal convictions, as well as aspects of religion and culture. Some might say it is better to "let sleeping dogs lie" when it comes to these matters, however, as adult members of the flickr photography community, these things are well within the bounds of serious discussion.
On the other hand, the early photographers side-stepped the slaughter of animals, and went through a 20 to 30 year period (and perhaps 50 years for die-hards) of using COLLODION to make the glass-plate negative emulsions. Generally speaking, Collodion is specially prepared COTTON dissolved in ALCOHOL. At one stage of the preparation, the COTTON BALLS became what is known a GUN COTTON, which was highly explosive. If the photographer (or chemist) was not careful, you could say they would get a REAL BANG out of their new-fangled hobby of taking pictures !!!
The details are HERE :
and HERE :
The image posted above is a hand colored, collodion POSITIVE made by copying (or contact printing from) a collodion NEGATIVE. Due to an optical illusion property of the developed collodion on glass, the negative itself could have been cased as an AMBROTYPE with the proper black backing behind the image to make it magically appear as a positive.
The same "negative approach" would make a TINTYPE, but instead putting the emulsion on glass, it is exposed and developed on black-lacquered (or "Japanned") metal sheets — where the negative would also appear as a positive to the eye. The same emulsion used for all of the above processes was the same collodion. Only the presentation was different !
By the way, most of the old JAPANESE PHOTOGRAPHIC PRINTS posted on my photostream are coated with neither Collodion, nor Gelatin. With the exception of the SALT PRINTS, which have no coatings or emulsions, all other images are formed in an emulsion made of ALBUMEN — that is, the egg whites of endless, clucking Chickens.
Back in the 1860s, one photographic outfit in New York had a Chicken Coop out back that produced 10,000 eggs a day in order to keep up with the demand for photographic papers coated with albumen !
As for you poor VEGAN folks who think you must now write off seeing movies as a way to "Save the Animals", please have no fear, and do not suffer. Just stick to motion pictures made with the RED ONE camera that go straight to DVD !
Lest there be any misunderstanding, Okinawa_Soba should state that, although I love animals as much as the next guy, and do exercise a certain level of animal ethics, I am not an official member of PETA [People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals]. Rather, I’m a life-long member of that other PETA group — People Eating Tasty Animals !.
I am also one whose heart has been hardened to the point where I can sit through the latest BLOCKBUSTER films over at the local Cineplex — eating my popcorn while the story unfolds on the screen at 24 frames-per-second, with light from the projector lamp blazing through miles of motion picture film coated with the rendered remains of untold numbers of slaughtered cows.
As for Slaughtered Pigs and Horses…. Gummy Bears, Jello, or Marshmallows, anyone ?
WET COLLODION….. or DRY COLLODION ?
"…..So far as we know….professional slide producers use either photo-mechanical…or the wet collodion process, while the amateur as a rule uses one or other of the gelatin processes……."
—– Andrew Pringle, LANTERN SLIDES BY PHOTOGRAPHIC METHODS, 1897
"…….Whether the finest lantern slides are those produced by the wet collodion process may, or may not be so, yet it is a fact that collodion lantern slides possess a resplendence, sparkle, and clearness often absent in slides made by other processes. In distinction from gelatin, collodion slides do not melt [in the heat of the projector]. The usual method of producing the slides is by copying the negative in the camera, although it is possible to make lantern slides by contact [printing] upon a wet collodion plate by use of a well-varnished negative that is slightly separated from the wet plate by a well-oiled mask of heavy paper. However, [it is better to copy the negative] using a camera….."
— Edward C. Worden, NITROCELLULOUSE INDUSTRY, 1911
No matter if they were contact printing these slides, or putting the still-wet copy plate into a film holder and thus into the copy camera, it was a very messy business, and we should be appreciative of their efforts. After all, their careful patience for even one day of labor in and out of a dark tent resulted in these images still being with us after over 120 years.
Here is one annotated photo from the 1870s offering more proof that these type of images — as either negatives or positives — were actually made while still wet with the sticky, and sometimes drippy emulsion :
On the other hand, although wet-plate collodion emulsions were NO GOOD when they dried out (usually within 10 minutes or so of coating the glass), experimenters tried everything to get them to remain sensitive — including soaking in Beer, Coffee, or anything else they could grab from the kitchen or the chemist, all hoping to discover a successful DRY COLLODION process.
Some Westerners had limited success, and at least one old 19th Century book gives directions on how to get your "wet plate" to work after drying out — with the only drawback being that exposure times in a camera were 20 times longer than normal !
So, if our Japanese photographer friends got tired of the messy wet plates to make these beautiful slides, perhaps they tried some secret methods now lost to us — like treating their plates with SOY SAUCE and WASABI in order to get these messy glass "films" to work when dry !!!
In the end, they all said "to hell with collodion", and switched over to the much faster and very dry Gelatin coated plates.
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