Even though every Profoto product was designed with a purpose, we encourage and support creatives who find new ways of using them. Ian Ruhter is one of those photographers. Ian uses powerful Profoto strobes to rejuvenate the old wet plates technique . He is currently traveling around his home country, photographing the places and the people who live there in this never-before-seen fashion. We will follow him on this journey in a series of articles, written by Ian himself. This is the fourth part, in wich Ian shows how to do wet plates with a Holga camera and Profoto strobes.
Lights, toy camera, action!
I was granted an opportunity. At the time I didn’t know it would lead to a major development in my photography. I was asked to participate in a show at the Lomography store in Los Angeles. The idea behind the project was to take six photographers and have them create photos with the Lomography cameras. Initially I thought it would be fun to make photos using regular film again. All of the sudden I had an idea. Would it be possible to create wet plate images with this camera? Once I had the camera in my hands I figured out very quickly it was going to work.
The very next day I began shooting photos with my new plastic camera. Immediately I was blown away by the results. These cameras have plastic lenses and are known to have light leaks, which gives you the signature Lomo look. The combination of toy camera and wet plate process produced images I had never imagined creating.
The real breakthrough came when I started integrating Profoto strobes to the equation. When using wet plate collodion, you set your camera up on a tripod and do very long exposures. Your subject is required to hold still for a few seconds. That’s why you never see people smiling in 19th century photography. I realized my new camera and the strobes were giving me extremely short exposure times. While I was in the darkroom preparing another wet plate I decided to try something new. I was going to walk up to my subject and shoot a handheld candid photo. As I was developing the image I realized it worked! I have never heard of anyone making wet plate collodion images without the use of a tripod. I felt as if 150 years of restrictions had been lifted. I am now able to make candid photos using the wet plate process. I believe I have only scratched the surface of what is possible by creating images in this way. Experiences like these remind me why I love photography.
I think as photographers we get in a rhythm of playing by rules that were written by others. To live by rules that were created by others we may never find out who we really are.
Ps. Here is a list of resources if you would like to try this on your own:
- Colodion Workshops: Will Dunniway
- Profoto Lighting
- Lomography Camera
- Wet plate Supplys: Bostick & Sullivan