Wet Plate Ambrotype Photography

"Capturing Images in Silver on Glass using Light"

  

 

Wet plate collodion is one of the earliest forms of photography.  Frederick Scott Archer has been credited with inventing this historic process back in 1848.  The process became very popular worldwide but then quickly died off in the 1880's when a more convenient way of taking photographs was invented.  In recent years there has been a small revival of the process when a number of contemporary photographers decided to go back to the roots of photography and embrace the old.  Making a wet plate can be difficult, timely, costly, unpredictable, and requires a high degree of commitment.   The images can be captured on glass (ambrotype) or on metal (tin type).  The word Ambrotype is translated in Ancient Greek as "Immortal Impression".  Digital photography of today relies on technology, wet plate photography relies on 160 year old chemistry and a bit of magic and some luck. 

A wet plate photographer makes a film base on a piece of glass or metal using collodion, submerges it in a silver nitrate solution to make it light sensitive, and then exposes the photograph usually in an old style wood bellows camera box and antique brass lens from the 1800's.  The process is called wet plate because during the entire process the chemicals on the plates must remain wet and cannot be allowed to dry.  The end result is a one-of-a-kind, archival object of art that will last many lifetimes.  There are wet plates of Abraham Lincoln that look just as good today as they did a century and a half ago.  It is thought that less than 1000 people worldwide carry on the tradition of wet plate today and most of those individuals are professional photographers at the height of their career.  Each and every day the world is filled with millions and millions of digital photographs that have no value, character, significance or physical form, that is not the case with each and every wet plate.  The wet plate process is magical and the end result is tangible and precious.

I am self taught and shoot wet plate photography exclusively, it is the only process that I know. 

Contact Information:
Shane Balkowitsch, Ambrotypist
Nostalgic Glass
4419 Centurion Dr.
Bismarck, ND 58504
shane@balkowitsch.com
(701)223-9936 Phone

 "Neither words or the most detailed painting can evoke a moment of vanished time as powerfully and as completely as a good photographic record.  The camera records what is focused upon the ground glass. If we had been there we would have seen it so. We could have touched it, counted the pebbles, noted the wrinkles, no more no less. The photograph takes infinite care and renders its illusions perfect.  The Implicit faith and truth in a photographic record" - Beaumont Newhall

"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" - Arthur C. Clarke

"Be it known to you, therefore, that photography is no longer a mysterious science which requires the skill and cunning of the alchemist and the ability of the witch.", 1893, - Edward L. Wilson, Photographic Times & American Photographer

"In Photography There Are No Unexplained Shadows" - August Sander

"When Photography gets so technical as to intimidate people, the element of simple enjoyment is bound to suffer. Any man who can see what he wants to get on film will usually find some way to get it; and a man who thinks his equipment is going to get it for him is not going to get much of anything." - Hunter S. Thompson February 26th, 1962

"Modern wet plate photography is "Using the past to record the present for the future." - Lawrence Naegle

"Saturate yourself with your subject and the camera will all but take you by the hand." - Margaret Bourke-White

"Art isn't for ovation but expression" -  Kim Olson a fellow artist, January 26th, 2017. 

"I admit I donít know the rules of composition, and I donít know the lingo because I have gained my knowledge through work and observation. Pictures came first. Rules followed. No one ever became and artist by learning the rules or keeping them. It takes a good deal more than that.  When I find myself stopping to think, I know Iím on the wrong track." - Edward Weston

        

 

 

 

-Visit my Zenfolio Wet Plate Catalog and Blog -

- Northern Plains Native Americans: A Modern Wet Plate Perspective-

Wet Plate Images Archives

My 2012 Work (First Year)

My 2013 Work

My 2014 Work

My 2015 Work

My 2016 Work

Most Recent Work (Current Year - 2017)

 

"The Devotion Sessions" Plate #6

"Abandoning Grace" 

Donald Trump - "POTUS Revealed"  

"The Son of God"  

"Temptationis Oblitus"  

"The Struggle for Favor" 

 
 

 

 

"The Vulnerability of Man" 

 

 

Brian Sorbo

 

"The Resting Ambrotypist"

Self Portrait 

"The Devotion Sessions" Plate #7

 

Tableau Vivant of the Condemned -

"Tempus est Inimicus"

Tableau Vivant of the Condemned

Tableau Vivant of the Condemned

Father Floberg

 

"The Execution of Saint Sebastian"

"Kintsugi"

"Miss Indian World"

Chief Arvol Looking Horse

"End of the Spear"

Self Portrait with Assistance of Jason Lueder

The Capsizing of Humanty, A Wet Plate Collaboration

Myron Dewey

Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock

 

Honoring Sky Woman

with Margaret Landin

 

 

 

 

 

Partial Eclipse

August 21st, 2017 12:32pm

"Still Standing on Unceded Territory"

Tonweya Tokaheya (Dakota Goodhouse)

"The Reluctant Silhouette"

 

"Broken Bird"

 

"Dreds"

 

 

 

"Study of a Blacksmith's

Downward Hammer Strike"

 

 

 
   
       
       
       
       
       
       
       

CLICK HERE for visit my Wikipedia Page

CLICK HERE to see my TEDx Talk at the University of Mary, April 6th, 2016

CLICK HERE to see a list of my wet plates permanently curated by the State Historical Society of ND

CLICK HERE for Orlando Scott Goff "Chasing and Enigma" by Lou Hafermehl

My Wet Plates at DAPL featured on CNN Virtual Reality "Looking Back on the Stand at Standing Rock" June 2017

My Wet Plate of Floris White Bull is featured in the movie AWAKE - A Dream from Standing Rock

Documenting Dakota Pipeline Protests in Wet Plate, Fargo Forum, August 15th, 2016

High Plains Reader, "Death by Oil", December 22th, 2016

High Plains Reader, "Can't Drink Oil", September 15th, 2016

High Plains Reader, "Water and Oil Do Not Mix", August 25th, 2016

CLICK HERE Read "Sizing Up Humanity with Antiquated Craft" July 19th, 2017

Bismarck Magazine September/October 2017 "Shane Balkowitsch"

"The Road to Sitting Bull" and Ernie LaPointe in Midwest Living Magazine September, 2017

My work with the human rights project "Those Among Us" featured on KFYR TV July 7th, 2017

My Native American Wet Plates featured on Digital Photographer Review June 16th, 2017

My Wet Plate "Death by Oil" is featured in the article "Culture Shift" by YES! Magazine

"Those Among Us" Wet Plate Documenting Human Rights Champions in ND with Sean Coffman

CLICK HERE read my interview with VICE Magazine, The Creators Series March 6th, 2017

CLICK HERE hear a podcast interview of me by John Meadows "Passion and Compassion" March 3rd, 2017

CLICK HERE see an article in Midwest Living Magazine about my Wet Plate Work, January, 2017

CLICK HERE see my plate of Dave Archambault III featured on the front cover Le Temps in Switzerland 12-9-2016

CLICK HERE see my plates featured in "Stone Ghosts" by Consequence Magazine written by Stephen Dau 11-25-2016

CLICK HERE to "Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's Eldest Tribal Member Celebrates 100 Years" 11-08-2016

CLICK HERE to listen to my interview by John Meadows of Classic Camera Revival 5-27-2016

CLICK HERE to Read Giving a Voice to the Voiceless: The Work of Shane Balkowitsch by Dustin White 8-31-2016

CLICK HERE to view Emily Ergen from the Historical Society talk about Ernie Lapointe's Plate "Eternal Field" 7-21-2016

CLICK HERE to listen to my interview by KFGO Radio in Fargo Post "Murderer's Gulch" 6-30-2016

CLICK HERE for my Contribution to the North Dakota - South Dakota Portfolio Exchange 6-20-2016

CLICK HERE for More on the Wet Plate Technique

CLICK HERE to see Shane featured on Front Page of Bismarck Tribune for General Custer Shoot

CLICK HERE to see Follow-up story in Bismarck Tribune for General Custer Shoot

CLICK HERE to see General Custer Shoot Video Produced by Bismarck Tribune 12-5-13

CLICK HERE to see General Custer Shoot Video Produced by KFYR TV 12-8-13

CLICK HERE to see Bismarck State College Blog Post of Graphic Design Students Visit to Studio 1-17-14

CLICK HERE to see Blog Post on Pencil Me In by Tom Marple 1-25-14

CLICK HERE to see Blog Post from Memorial Union Gallery at NDSU about my Exhibition "Souls of Silver" 8-27-14

CLICK HERE to see a News Story by KFYR about my studio and Ello 10-5-14

CLICK HERE to see a Mandan News article "Comparing the Past to the Present" my plate of Denean Hill, Olympian 3-11-15

CLICK HERE to see a Minot News video of my presentation to the students at Minot State University 3-13-15

CLICK HERE to see an Article by Battle Dispatch (Custer Battlefield.org) covering my Custer House Shoot Fall 2015

CLICK HERE to see an Article by The Quite Delightful Project Blog about my Image of my love Bonnie 5-20-15

CLICK HERE to see my work featured in BLUR Magazine #43 June, 2015

CLICK HERE to read a Blog Post by Holly Reynoso about my Wet Plate Adventure,  June, 2015

CLICK HERE to read a Blog Post by "Analyzing 19th Century" Blog about my Julia M. Cameron "Certitude" Work,  June, 2015

CLICK HERE to see my Julia M. Cameron inspired "Certitude" featured on the Gala Awards Website  June, 2015

CLICK HERE to read "Fort Lincoln Transports into the Past" Mandan News  July 15, 2015 Featuring "Departure on the Plains"

CLICK HERE to read "A Different Kind of Magic" Mandan News December 22, 2015 Featuring my shoot with Kat Perkins

CLICK HERE to watch a video of "The Slaying of the Sons" by Dustin White of Belzian, February 4th, 2016

CLICK HERE to read about my Bismarck State College "Rising Star" Award, May 12th, 2016

CLICK HERE to see my Wet Plate Q&A in the High Plains Reader November 18th, 2015

CLICK HERE to see article in Dakotafire about my "Eternal Field" Ernie LaPointe Shoot, November 2014

CLICK HERE to see me as featured artist in Artists of North Dakota, November 2015

CLICK HERE to see BSC Magazine Spring 2016 Featuring me as the new Rising Star

CLICK HERE to see a News Story by KXMD Williston on my Exhibition at the James Memorial Art Center with Deana Novak 10-31-14

CLICK HERE to see The Capsizing of Humanity, A Wet Plate Collaboration, June 17th, 2017

CLICK HERE to see The Persecution of Complete Strangers, A Wet Plate Collaboration, August 27th, 2016

CLICK HERE to see Murderer's Gulch, A Wet Plate Collaboration, June 11th, 2016

CLICK HERE to see article in Jamestown Art Center Newsletter, January 2015

CLICK HERE to see article in Jamestown Sun on my exhibition, January 15th, 2015

CLICK HERE to see Video from BSC on my "The Seven Sons of Niobe" shoot,  February, 2015

CLICK HERE to see Front Cover article in View Camera Magazine featuring my General Custer Plate

KFGO Radio in Fargo interview about the Evander Holyfield plate going to Smithsoniam 10-20-2016

KFYR Bismarck Wet Plate Photographer's Portrait of Boxing Legend Headed to Smithsonian 10-21-2016

CLICK HERE to see NDSU Campus News do a video of my visit to their Gallery

     CLICK HERE to see "Souls of Silver" exhibition for the North Dakota Art Gallery Association, Opening Aug. 5th 2014

  CLICK HERE to see Fort Abraham Lincoln Custer House Shoot on KXNET News 7-13-14

CLICK HERE to see my page dedicated to Ernie LaPointe, the last Great Grandson of Sitting Bull 9-6-14

CLICK HERE to see my page dedicated to Virgil Hill, the Olympian and Boxing Champion 2-20-15

CLICK HERE to see my Evander Holyfield Shoot on PetaPixel 2-20-15

  CLICK HERE to see Fort Abraham Lincoln Custer House Shoot In Mandan Newspaper 7-24-14

CLICK HERE to see Additional Images from the Mandan Newspaper 7-24-14

  CLICK HERE to listen to my interview with Bob Harris from KFGO Radio in Fargo 5-5-16

   CLICK HERE to see Bismarck State College Blog about Final Plates of Students 1-17-1

CLICK HERE to see my Wet Plate Interpretations of Living Masterpieces 9-27-14

My wet plate of Tyler Huber featured in February 2014 edition of Bicycle Times. 


FRIENDS AND SUPPORTERS OF NOSTALGIC GLASS WET PLATE STUDIO


  CLICK HERE to read Dakota Goodhouse's Blog "The First Scout"

  CLICK HERE to read Clay Jenkinson's Blog

Wet Plate Collodion International Collection "The Mask Series" organized by Shane Balkowitsch

View spectacular video of Andreas Reh from Germany develop one of this classic nude wet plates, he is my mentor. 

Why does everyone look older and different in wet plate?  The answer is that wet plate uses Ultraviolet Light to capture the image, this "How the Sun Sees You" Video will Demonstrate this clearly.   

Resources

Historic Photograph Identification Leaflet by Douglas Westfall from The Paragon Agency

The Wet Plate Gallery has a beautiful selection of plates from all over the world. 

Star Camera Company (Maker of Fine Camera Boxes and other Accessories)

John Coffer (Renowned expert and publisher of The Doers Guide to Wet-Plate Collodion Photography and DVD Series

Bostick & Sullivan (Suppliers of Handcrafted Wet Plate Chemicals)

Peerless Photographic

Friends and Related Websites:

CLICK HERE to view a superb video By John Coffer

Ed Ross Photography (Award Winning Wet Plate Photography)

Andreas Reh Photography

Mark Sink Photography (Wet Plate Photography)

Wet Plate Collodion Scoop It Page

 

Notable Quotes:
ďMy first impression was that it was some kind of miracle. It seemed like it created itself in some way. It just didnít seem like anybody could have made anything like this. It was like a force of nature in this case, it was remarkable.Ē - Jerry Spagnoli on the Daguerreotype Process that predates Wet Plate

"You don't take a picture, it is given to you" - Alex Timmerman

Historic Wet Plate Photographs

Frederick Stott Archer invented Wet Plate in 1848. The father of Collodion Wet Plate photography and the publisher of the very famous text on the subject called "The Chemist"

 

 

Abraham Lincoln a few years before his assassination. 

 

Wet Plate Tin Type photograph of an anonymous "Veteran with his wife" taken by Frederick Scott Archer in 1850.

 

Tom Thumb in 1860.

 

 

General George Armstrong Custer

First ever photograph of a human being, 1838, Boulevard du Temple in Paris taken by Louis Daguerre, the father of Daguerreotype photography which predates Wet Plate by a decade. 

 

Theodore Roosevelt on a deteriorating plate. 

 
 
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Copyright Note: All referenced photographs, images and logos provided above are for informational purposes only and they are the property of their respective owners.  Main portraits of Shane in header taken by Corey Carson from Elevate Studios, Bismarck, ND Nov. 30th, 2015 and Kim Scianghetti Fine Art Photography, July 21st, 2017.  www.imelevate.com and www.scianghettiphotography.com