thoughts on silver
it’s a weird feeling: to crave something when you don’t know what it is. it’s a bit like fumbling around in the dark muttering to yourself how your career (passion, art, love) for something must just be over. it leaves you with a sense of loss. a sense of missing. a hunger that knocks in the middle of the night. it feels like a craving for something that doesn’t exist yet. that is… until you find it!
change happens seasonally or across the span of many years. for me, the change in my photography began when i moved north three years ago… and it continued to shift as pieces of my former life (living in a city as a single mom raising an only child) began to fade as my rural settings (and family and love and co-parenting multiple children) took precedence. my photography threw me for a loop, this change i was not expecting! yes, i moved across the country, and that can be drastic enough… but i never guessed i would process this within the lines of my art. my environment very much dictated my work through the images i took or wanted to create. this shift occurred in my interest level in photography too, in how i wanted to see myself (or not!) this shift was reflected in how often i was shooting (or how infrequent), and mostly how it felt to be slinging a camera.
when i moved north, my digital camera sat on the sidelines. i say it’s because it felt out of place. but maybe i felt out of place. i don’t know, it’s hard to describe… but this feeling was definitely a catalyst for me digging into new photographic mediums. all i knew was that i craved slowing down. my digital camera and the digital world felt like too much for me (too fast, too gluttonous, too much too much)… so i began tracing back through time, getting my hands on different film cameras and trying different techniques that it seemed to feed my creative muse. granted, i rely on digital photography with my line of work as a freelancer. the entire world runs on pixels! i am forever grateful for this and am happy with my career… yet something inside of me wanted an outlet, a passion for after work hours… something to satisfy that craving.
for nearly two years, my sweetheart and i have been dabbling (struggling?) with learning to make ferrotypes (tintypes) on our own. doing so with our antique camera that survived through the civil war. with our antique lens that embraces soft focus almost in honor of julia margaret cameron herself. in our own darkroom here in the yurt, we made mistakes. experienced setbacks. but continued to be driven towards this thing we knew we would love. we had a giant breakthrough over the summer, i dove deep into learning an old photographic technique through a workshop offered by Maine Media Workshops in rockport maine. it brought me into the darkroom and further out into the field by using a portable darkroom as well.
this summer, i fell hopelessly in love with the collodion process. making wet plates (ferrotypes and ambrotypes) is the very foundation of photographic roots. it’s what ruled the photographic world in 1851. now we are going back to the very basics of this process: this means mixing our own chemistry and using raw materials throughout all the steps. collodion and ether. silver nitrate. sodium thiosulfate. gum sandarac and lavender oil varnish. we make everything ourselves. it is absolutely amazing. steve and i have reached the platform to really begin (again) and dive into this wet plate process and it’s been nourishing something inside of us. it’s been revealing the strength in our partnership as well, as we work together in collaborations and in the darkroom where mutual respect and trust is needed.
this is my new perspective. it smells different. it feels different. it moves at a slower, more mindful pace. it satisfies something in me that was craving a certain uniqueness that comes with making something handcrafted. (very handcrafted, you may even see my fingerprints in these ferrotypes) my photography has been changing over these years. and now i wonder (because my photography somewhat defines me as a person/artist/photographer) does this mean i have changed as well? perhaps i have.
when we are open to change, we are open to possibilities.