Angie Pember Brockey
The photographic process of contemporary artists and alchemists Justin Brockey and Angie Pember Brockey of Silver and Glass Photography pays homage to an era long before digital cameras and smartphones made everyone a “photographer.”
The couple practices wet plate collodion, the primary photographic method of the mid to late 19th century. Producing the ethereal effect shown here, the process goes far beyond today’s point-and-shoot photography.
Creating one wet plate — which uses glass for the film — takes 30-40 minutes, Justin says. He or Angie hand-cut and deblur the glass, arrange their subject and shoot the image on an 1860s reproduction camera with an 1870s Dallmeyer lens. They mix chemicals using original 19th century formulas and pour collodion over the plate. The couple then “sensitizes” the plate in silver nitrate, then exposes the image, creating a photographic negative on the glass.
The pair makes wet plates up to 8-by-10 inches, but Justin plans to restore an even larger camera that can create plates more than triple that size. He also hopes to eventually teach classes on wet plate techniques.
“Wet plate was kind of a dying art and now it is starting to build back up a little bit,” he says.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This self-portrait of Justin Brockey is a 5-by-7 ambrotype (a glass negative) titled “Cameras for Breakfast.”
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