The Darkbox

Wet Plate photography was the Polaroid of the 1800s. Once the camera is set up, chemicals are ready, and all of the other preshow activities are complete the actual action of exposing the plate and processing is 10 to 15 minutes. As the plate must never be allowed to dry, thus loosing its light sensitive properties the collodion photographer must have a darkroom at the site of the exposure.

In the field, just as in the 1800s, modern colldion photographers make used of portable darkboxes to prep and process plates on location. There are limitless designs for these portable darkrooms with most being constructed ( like most of the other needed equipment) by the photographer.

With the passing of the collodion era (1850 – 1880) the commercial availability of collodion photography equipment faded away. The collection and construction of the various pieces of equipment, cameras, lab ware etc. makes the prospect of working with colldion photography for the newcomer a bit daunting. As the digital age continues to push forward more and more photographers and artist are wanting to return to something a bit more unique and handmade thus the ranks of the wet plate photography community are growing. Not just in America but around the world. With this growth also comes the need for supplies and equipment. Just take a look at the growing activity on the forum as well as the Petzval lens marked on eBay for an indication of recent collodion photographic growth.

So if you a newcomer to collodion photography, or a battle tested vet you are going to need a darkbox if your going to hit the road. If you have a box that your not happy with, or dont want to build one yourself there is an option for you. I ask that you take a look at the wares of woodworker and collodion photographer Steve Silipigni. Steve’s woodworking and box design is solid and great looking. If you are in the market for a more traditional looking box or super silver/fix baths then don’t waste your time searching for another source! If you happen to contact Steve, let him know that you heard about him at the Visual Adventure.

****  2012 UPDATE  ****

Maybe because of the size plates you plan to make you would like to use a tent?


~ by Phil Nesmith on September 13, 2008.

One Response to “The Darkbox”

  1. […] it took forever to set up once I located a site of interest.  Setting up the darkbox and chemicals, unpacking the camera, etc. just took too long.  Mixing chemicals and […]

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: