Wet Plate Photography is a vintage back & white process from 1851 where a liquid cotton emulsion is poured onto a glass or metal plate and light sensitized in a silver nitrate bath. The plate is then – while still wet – exposed in an ancient (wood) plate camera. Exposed at ISO 1 (!) it is developed and placed in a fixative that will prevent it from fading. The result is one single reverse positive image that – when varnished in sandarak – has a lifespan of hundreds of years. Every plate is unique – there is only one copy.
The Wet Plate Collodion photographic process was invented in 1851 by British sculptor and inventor Frederick Scott Archer. Revolutionary at the time, this process made it possible to capture an image on the surface of a piece of glass. Archer then named this process Ambrotype. This process is complicated, time-consuming, and the (expensive) chemicals involved can be dangerous to the photographer. Photographs by the collodion wet plate process are sharp like the daguerreotype, easily reproducible like the calotype, and enabled photographers at the time to dramatically reduce exposure times. Archer however did not patent this process, and consequently received no financial benefit from it. He died in poverty in 1857.