I am a wet-plate collodion artist and photographer. This particular photographic process originated in the mid 1800's and is extremely technical and produces some of the highest resolution images possible on either glass or metal plates that are absolutely stunning.
Pending funding, I’ll convert a van into a mobile darkroom and equipment cache which is something I’ve done before, but not for collodion. That’s step one, which allows me to travel legitimately to do my job, subject to Government COVID-19 restrictions.
I’m looking to shoot 50 plates in the first year, roughly 1-2 a week. People will be able to contact me, find out more, book a sitting, and thereafter scan, share and publicise their stories and experiences with wet-plate collodion. There will be a strong online presence, MentalCollodion is on Instagram and Facebook @mentalcollodion. I see these platforms as offering a safe place for people to share their experiences and find some support, however small it may be, that support might just make all the difference. Let’s not dull it down, people are committing suicide due to their situations, circumstances, and states of mind. This cannot go on.
Above Plate: I was recently published in EMULSIVE Magazine in a collaboration with my dear friend and creative writer Paul Whitehouse, of whom has offered to work on the project with me in terms of writing assistance. Exploring PTSD with wet-plate photography article: https://emulsive.org/articles/darkroom/wet-plate/visualising-the-unspeakable-exploring-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-with-wet-plate-photography
It’s important to stress that I’m not offering mental health advice or counselling, instead, we’re talking, we’re building a relationship and capturing 10 seconds of a persons life on a plate, which they will keep and hopefully pass on to loved ones for hundreds of years to come.
The project is already underway and has proven to have made a difference to the people already. This includes three soldiers (two retired, one currently serving) and its been awesome to get their feedback and share their experiences. When they look at the plate it’s something that they feel good about. It’s exciting to be able to provide people with this kind of positive mental health experience while also raising awareness for mental health and wellbeing. It’s something I feel passionately about.
Above Plate's - some sitter's who have benefitted from the project to date.
It’s also my intention to run workshops to bring the Victorian process to people who are interested, so that they can learn and perhaps will be inspired to shoot for themselves and maybe help people along the way, too.
The plates are archival in quality, meaning they will be around long after I pop my clogs, which means that people holding these plates in 200 years will be able to experience and connect with both my sitter and myself and our experiences together. When these fifty, or so plates are exhibited it will be an accurate reflection of the time stamp that COVID-19 has permanently marked us with. I want this work to support people creatively and give others access to a positive experience in wet-plate collodion, especially during this difficult period.
Above Plate: 'IN DARKNESS, LIGHT TAKES FORM' - this symbolises a place that we need to come out from, we need to reach out and speak to people, to get help and share our thoughts. It is particularly important in time of lockdown where loneliness is statistically rising drastically.
People sometimes say that a picture should speak for itself, but I want to go further than this. I am committed to fully documenting this process and aim to combine the plates with additional and enhanced narrative. For instance, I will give sitters an opportunity to not only document their feelings as a kind of visual metaphor, but also in the written and recorded word.
It is important to the social and communal value of project to record these experiences in a variety of ways, including some critical readings of the plates, and different ways of personalising them. For example, sitters will be able to inscribe the back of their plate, and, if appropriate, I will record video of our time together to form the basis of a documentary film, centred on promoting positivity and self-care and compassion for one another.
Above Plate: 'TAKE THEM?' This is one self-portrait where I addressed the topic of medication, for me, the plate symbolises the anxiety and worry of considering taking medication, some of which has a metallic taste and can leave your mouth in some pain. It also symbolises the thought processes surrounding questions such as 'am I going to get hooked on these', and 'can I come off them without spiralling'?
My own mental health journey began with PTSD and through photography and now collodion it has brought me to the point where I want to make this experience accessible to others and to help tell their stories so that others can get involved these in these vital conversations. It might be an odd sort of inspiration, but I have to credit my inner demons, and there’s a lot in my recent work about having too many minds, and too many thoughts. This is something a lot of people experience and something of which I’ve been able to capture with the MentalCollodion project, already.
Above Plate: 'MANY MINDS' - this is a triple exposure and represents how it is easy to be pulled into the past or be fixated on the future which radically takes away from the focus on the present. It has allowed discussions on the importance of breathing, meditation and mindfulness.
I think the whole process of collodion and long exposures lends itself to self-reflective work, primarily because it’s so immersive and focuses your mind on something positive and creative, and if I can use this process to lift another person, even momentarily, out of whatever challenges that they might be dealing with for a few minutes and capture them on plate then it will have been worth it. FOR POSITIVITY, AND ZERO NEGATIVITY.
Logistics and Funding:
It is my hope that some elements of the project will generate income, such as when I run workshops and take on paid work in terms of portrait shoots. It is the aim of the project not to charge for the MentalCollodion portrait sessions.
The donated money will be used to convert a suitable vehicle for use as a darkroom and equipment store. The wet-plate chemicals and plates are expensive and funds will also support the ongoing purchase, maintenance and usage of these items. I will also be travelling long distances, and thus, fuel and expenses will be incorporated into the funds.
I also want to purchase a suitable space to both exhibit these plates and use as a studio space. I intend to use some of the funds to go towards this end.
Advertising and marketing campaigns will factor in, as will my own time spent on the project, I need to be able to pay myself some income as this will take considerable time to embark on properly.
Some funds will be used to pay for collaborative expenses, such as paying other artists fairly to support their efforts.
I will need back-up equipment and although I have the bare minimum to start this project at the moment, I will need to purchase and replace some equipment, this will include a generator and associated power equipment and tools to enable me to shoot on location.
The concept of MentalCollodion is proven to be a positive working driving force that is making a difference to people. I will pour my heart and soul into the plates we create. Many thanks for reading and I hope you can help to support this endeavour.
SR Film Photography website: https://srfilmphotography.co.uk/
- Tatiana Hopper
- Dmitri Tcherbadji
- Martin Siegel
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