Is the wet plate photography process dangerous?


Wet plate photography is an ancient technique that still has many fans today. But is the process dangerous for the photographer?

Analog photography has an appeal to many of us; the tactile experience is enriching in an increasingly digital world. Even though I know it’s not, when I take photos on film I feel more like I’m exercising a skill than when I take the same kind of photographs with my digital camera. However, loading film into a camera, taking a photo, and rolling the film is really not that difficult. There are older techniques that have seen a surge in popularity in recent years.

One of these techniques is wet plate photography, also known as the collodion process. It is a long and difficult procedure that was invented around 1851 by a British compatriot, Frederick Scott Archer. The original method is as follows:

The process involved adding a soluble iodide to a solution of collodion (cellulose nitrate) and coating a glass plate with the mixture. In the darkroom, the plate was immersed in a solution of silver nitrate to form silver iodide. The plate, still wet, was exposed in the camera. It was then developed by pouring a solution of pyrogallic acid over it and was fixed with a strong solution of sodium thiosulfate, for which the potassium cyanide was then replaced. – Britannica

In this video, Markus Hofstätter explains his wet plate process and how he takes steps to avoid the dangers inherent in such a photographic method. Despite wearing masks, working in well-ventilated rooms, and taking necessary precautions with chemicals, he still has blood tests twice a year to make sure his liver function is at the right level and that he is in good health. there is no cadmium present. Hofstätter is a bit of an expert in wet plate photography and this video taught me how dangerous it can be – something I hadn’t realized!


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