No Vaccine For Death

A Wet Plate Collodion Collaboration in Bismarck, University of Mary, Marian Grotto, North Dakota

July 17th, 2021



"No Vaccine For Death, a Tableaux Vivant, a wet plate collaboration, July 17th, 2021. This collaboration was inspired by the painting at the Musee de Prado in Spain "The Triumph of Death" by Pieter Bruegel from 1562.  This wet plate shoot could not have come at a more poignant time in history.  The world is just starting to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.  Marek my director and I thought that if we could immortalize this scene in our own way that we could possibly put this behind us.  Marek chose the title for the production and his thoughts are below.  His feelings are that we are all going to eventually die and we focus so much time and energy on things that are not important, we loose track of our time here on Earth.  There is no vaccine for mortality and he wanted to make people more aware of this fact. 


"In regards to theme - one things that I’ve been think a lot about is how afraid of death our society has become. The idea that we will live forever and pain and suffering should be avoided at all costs has created a lot of problems in our time. The pandemic brings the possibility of death closer to us, but death is the real pandemic - and there will be no vaccine for that - we will all die.“No Vaccine for Death” might be an interesting title..." - Marek Dojs, May 31, 2020


Ninety collaborators came together for no other reason than to create this image together.  It was our day in the sun.   


I want to thank each and every person that contributed to this fabulous adventure. I am so blessed to be on this creative path with all of you.  I want to sincerely thank Monsignor Shea from the University of Mary for allowing us to use the sacred Marian Grotto as our backdrop and set.  Marek is a professor at the University and Karel Sovak the Dean played the Grim Reaper with the sickle in the center of the frame.  Numerous students from the University also woke up early on a Saturday to join us, which made the collaboration even more meaningful. 


Carl Zeiss Tessar 300mm lens, Alessandro Gibellini studio camera, f11, 1 seconds of exposure, 8x10" black glass ambrotype in the historic wet plate process of pure silver on glass.  The original plate (plate #3963) is being donated to the State Historical Society of North Dakota to be preserved along with a formal list of everyone involved.




This is the 5th large collaboration that Marek and I have worked on together.  Every time we start a new project it seems we get more ambitious and push the envelope of what is possible. 


Shane Balkowitsch, Resident Ambrotypist 

PS: I also want to thank  Herbert Ascherman, Jr., Catherine Segura, John Moore and James Kyle for traveling thousands of miles from out of state to be a part of this collaboration.   


Synopsis from Wikipedia:

The Triumph of Death is an oil panel painting by Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted c. 1562.[1] It has been in the Museo del Prado in Madrid since 1827.[2]

The painting shows a panorama of an army of skeletons wreaking havoc across a blackened, desolate landscape. Fires burn in the distance, and the sea is littered with shipwrecks.[3] A few leafless trees stud hills otherwise bare of vegetation; fish lie rotting on the shores of a corpse-choked pond. Art historian James Snyder emphasizes the "scorched, barren earth, devoid of any life as far as the eye can see."[1] In this setting, legions of skeletons advance on the living, who either flee in terror or try in vain to fight back. In the foreground, skeletons haul a wagon full of skulls; in the upper left corner, others ring the bell that signifies the death knell of the world. People are herded into a coffin-shaped trap decorated with crosses, while a skeleton on horseback kills people with a scythe. The painting depicts people of different social backgrounds – from peasants and soldiers to nobles as well as a king and a cardinal – being taken by death indiscriminately.[4]

This Wet Plate Photo Took the Collaboration of 90 People to Produce, PetaPixel, August 6th, 2021

The Making of "No Vaccine For Death", Photomuse Journal, India August 4th, 2021

Bismarck's Shane Balkowitsch Makes Photographic History with Wet Plate Collaboration,  Fargo Forum by W. Scott Olsen July 18th, 2021

Wet Plate Photographer Draws Out Plenty to Participate in his Latest Project,  KXNET, July 17th, 2021

Making History With History, Frames Magazine July 29th, 2021








  Liberty Trudges Through Injustice via the digital lens of Chad Nodland

















"No Vaccine For Death" Large Art Installation at the Prince Hotel, Bismarck, North Dakota

Venue Provided by Rolf Eggers




A Wet Plate Collaboration

July 17th, 2021

University of Mary at The Marian Grotto

Bismarck, North Dakota

 Nostalgic Glass Wet Plate Studio, Shane Balkowitsch, Ambrotypist




Cast:                            Support Staff and Crew:

Brenda Miller (Plague Doctor)                 Marek Dojs, Director

Adam Steen (King)                             Michele Oster Renner, Costumes

Greyson Balkowitsch (Death)                   Tom Wirtz, Assistant w/ Camera

Sharon Balkowitsch (Dutchess)                 Ivy Brown Jacobson, Hair

Mike Swenson (Body in Coffin)                 Michael Stevenson, Costume Design

John LaLonde (Judas on Boat)                  Jason Lueder, Master Carpenter

Kevin Tengesdal (Throat Slit)                 Laine Pope, Prop Master

Lance Loken                                   Andrea Heidrich, Hair        

Charlene Lelm (Lady at Table)                 Anthony Nelson, Set Designer             

Emily Brandt (Dead Body)                      Chad Nodland, Head Photographer

Bonnie Balkowitsch (Queen)                    Paul Noot, Master Artist

Abby Balkowitsch (Sister)                     Katherine Corbett, Photography    

Jessica Gustafson (Skeleton)                  John Moore, Photography

Benjamin Helget                               Kelli Jo Swenson, Set Lead

Eric Bobby (Running Naked)                    Dustin White, Writer & Poet

Amber Sams                                    Melanie Kuntz Malsam, Make-up

Laine Pope (Jester)                           Shantel Arendes, Bones

Karel Sovak (Grim Reaper)                     Chad Balkowitsch, Props Trailer

Peter Woodrow (Laying Hands)                  Carol Carlson, Support

Tanis Lovercheck-Saunders                     Nancy Willis, Support

Sami Saunders                                 James Kyle, Photography

Tiana Saunders                                Marcus Johnson, Photography

Alicia Leingang (Skeleton)                    Travis Blankenbaker, Armorer

Carlee Gifford (Dead Lady)                    W. Scott Olsen, Writer / Reporter

Alyvia Balkowitsch (Child)                    Peter Johnson, Support

Mahliya Balkowitsch                           Marsha Johnson, Support

Gregg Rutter (Apostle)                        John Sweeney, Coffin         

Rachel Praus (Plagued Soul)                   Jerry Lindblom, Support           

David Leingang (Shield)                       Eileen Heidrich, Props       

Catherine A. Segura (Lute)                    Harry Heidrich, Support Vehicle

Clint Saunders (Plundering)                   Anne Polasky (Support)

Herbert Ascherman, Jr.                        Judith Hammer (Support)

Asher Nodland                                 Andrea Meadows (Overseas Support)

Adam Hasbargen (The Hunter)

Monte Faul (Breaking Wheel)

Maja Dojs

Katja Dojs

Winona Kozak (Skeleton)

Derek Lowstuter (Skeleton)

Justin Boone

Molly Clark

John Brule

Gabby Nistler

Ahlauna King

Kailyn Allen (Cowering Woman)

Danielle Monzelowsky (Lady)

Eric Monzelowsky (Lord)

Bobbi Holzworth (Skeleton)

Doug Wurtz (Skeleton)

Rissa Williams (Skeleton)


University of Mary, Monsignor James P. Shea

University of Mary, Dr. Karel Sovak (Dean)

Bismarck Historical Society, Mike LaLonde

State Historical Society of ND, Bill Peterson, Emily Ergen, Lindsay Schott and Joy Pitts

Bismarck Downtown Artist Cooperative (BDAC), Paul Noot

Image Printing, Inc., Todd Clausnitzer

The Prince Hotel (Mural Installation), Rolf Eggers


"No Vaccine For Death Collaboration"


June 7th, 2021

Death, the great equalizer
Creating an equality among all
Showing mercy for none

No needle to stop it
No booster to slow
Ever marching on
Giving life a constant

Inspiring hope in some
Driving them to greatness
Knowing our time is short
Making the most of what is left


Contact Information:
Shane Balkowitsch, Ambrotypist
Nostalgic Glass Wet Plate Studio
2703 Big Sky Circle
Bismarck, ND 58503
(701)426-7630 Phone

Copyright Note: All referenced photographs, images and logos provided above are for informational purposes only and they are the property of their respective owners.  Chad Nodland, Tom Wirtz, John Moore, Marcus Johnson and Katherine Corbett were photographers kind enough to bring their cameras to No Vaccine For Death and provide images as part of the collaboration.