Photography studio, gallery and training complex

Jo Gane – Alchemy On Location

I’ve been hooked on so-called alternative or historical printing processes ever since being introduced to them at university. I’ve exhibited both cyanotypes and gum bichromate prints, and continue to teach cyanotype printing to my students as part of an otherwise digital course. But one process I’ve never previously tried, or had the opportunity to try, is the wet plate collodion process.

Jo Gane, photographic alchemist

That’s all about to change, thanks to leading wet plate practitioner Jo Gane. I’ve asked her to deliver one of her highly rated wet plate collodion workshops for Fotofilia on Sunday 19th August. Jo was among the first of the revivalists of this beautiful process. This is how she explains her involvement in the process and how the workshops work:

“I have been working with the wet plate collodion process for four years, since the summer of 2008, when I attended one of the first workshops to be held in the UK, taught by Kerik Kouklis in Glasgow. I work with both a small negative process from which I make silver gelatin prints and with up to half plate ambrotypes on black glass. I enjoy the intimacy of smaller wet plate images. Workshops cover making positive ambrotypes on black aluminum and clear glass from 4”x 3” up to 10” x 12”. Participants are given the opportunity to use a range of cameras from a box brownie to a full plate antique brass and wood Sanderson field camera.

My wet plate work is held in the permanent collection of Birmingham Museum and Art gallery, one of the national collections of photography and also in the collection at Kensal Green cemetery where the inventor of the wet plate process, Frederick Scott Archer is buried.”

You may not recognise the term “wet plate collodion”, but you will almost certainly have seen images made with it. Remember Roger Fenton‘s Crimean War images? But here’s an image from one of Jo’s workshops of fellow photographer Laura Peters

Wet plate collodion image of Laura Peters

…and another from a similar workshop…

“Paul as a Roman”

You can’t help but be hit by the feeling of history in these images, I think. Clearly, this isn’t 6 frames a second digital photography: this is slow, crafted, deliberate and considered 3 or 4 shots a day, “old school” photography. This is “real” photography. This is photography that you set up, capture and then bring to life chemically. You are involved in the whole process, from preparation to print, and the only button you will push may be the camera shutter.

I teach cyanotypes to my “digital” groups because I think it’s essential to offer this new generation of photographers the opportunity to create something totally unique which is made entirely by them and them alone, with little help from gadgetry. It was learning to use a darkroom that really turned my photographic interest into an obsession. Some of my students get it, others don’t, but all (I believe) benefit from the experience. Jo Gane, I think, shares this belief. Arguably, you can’t call yourself a photographer until you’ve worked with real chemicals and understood the way that impacts on modern practices, because it undoubtedly does.

The photographic process, with this level of human involvement, elevates the final print to something more, something like a craft, something like alchemy. Pressing the button on your DSLR on “Auto” then “Send to print” simply isn’t the same.

The venue for this workshop is a secret location I’ve recently been offered; a lovely rural smallholding with fishing pools, stables, river frontage, and various outbuildings (which may come in useful in case of bad weather). All I can say is that it’s a few minutes drive from Alcester in Warwickshire. This course is entirely appropriate for this location and vice versa, not least because the chemicals used are not suitable for use in enclosed environments such as our studio. If the setting itself is not inspiring enough, and subject to us achieving full enrolment, there will be a model for you to photograph if you like.

Transport from Fotofilia can be arranged, or meet at pub local to the farm.

Jo’s asked for a small group number so that everyone gets plenty of time to play with the cameras and to produce a few images. And the cost is just £110, incuding all materials. Fotofilia CLUB & f2 members get to take part for just £100. – Jo’s website.

To book your place –!learn – Please check availability before paying.



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