This is a post about my journey as a wet plate photographer.
In 2014 I became completely obsessed with wet plate photography. This was not when I first fell in love with photography, because I had once made a living as a traveling portrait photographer (that is another story for a different time), but it was when I was deeply inspired by Julia Margaret Cameron, Sally Mann, Imogen Cunningham and Vivian Maier. Looking at thousands of black and white images invoking tremendous emotion felt like an aesthetic home to me.
I had been feeling creatively burnt out for some time, after years of running a popular and successful fiber arts business (again a different story for another time) I was looking for a way to express myself in ways and mediums that were largely unfamiliar to me. I do love to knowing that I have a lot to learn, and trying new things has always helped me feel as if something new is beginning.
After months of staying up late pouring over antique photography texts, and reading everything I could obtain about the wet plate process, I was ready to dive in and get my hands dirty. After my Mother helped tremendously with the initial investment on my first camera (for which I will forever be indebted), I was off and burning with passion for my new hard learned skill set.
In early 2015 I entered a tintype triptych in a local art contest and received promising recognition for my work. The next several months were spent painting and prepping an old Victorian house adjacent to a Civil War Museum for my studio. While I made some beautiful photos there, and did several demonstrations for school children, establishing myself there was taking time.
In late 2016 my husband took a job offer that relocated the family a few hours north. I said goodbye to the victorian house and the space in which I made much of my early Wet Plate work, both portraits and still life.
My camera, lighting, and darkroom equipment stayed packed while I weathered the move, the new school adjustments for the children, and a bizarre cycle of health problems that began to plague me. I was in medical care for varying lengths of time for: car accidents, mysterious vertigo, severe depression, wasp swarm attack and random and painful eyelid cysts that required multiple surgeries.
What saved my life during that dark time, was reading. I read one hundred books in 2018 and while my body was cloistered and convalescing, my mind traveled to far away places and grappled with problems bigger than me. I learned so much about myself during that time, that I highly recommend everyone have a mental breakdown and recover by reading 100 books in the subsequent year.
I wrote quite a bit in that time as well, and found that my greatest ambitions in life involve inspiring others who may also be going through difficult times. Whether it be through my artwork or my words, It is my dream to express myself and share an aesthetic connection with others. I am grateful to be on the path to doing so again.
In August 2019 I was able to pilgrimage to the beautiful artistic mecca of Santa Fe New Mexico and revisit my wet plate photography goals. I came home creatively rejuvenated and ready to work with my chin up and my eyes on where possibilities lay. There is so much to be learned with both my artwork and my writing and I have found that I am excited and inspired as much with what I don’t know how to create as I am with what I do.
Still, there is a such latent magic with both writing and my analog photography adventures. Both practices capture something out of thin air- generating images within spaces that are real and imagined.
It is a good way to spend a life.