The Era of the Wet Plate Collodion Processing

濕版攝影術的年代 (1851…)

Early 19th century, people started to explore about photography, which they gained some basic understanding and positive results. In 1839 photography was officially invented by Frenchman. In the following years others continued to develop various methods, hoping to capture and fix images more easily and conveniently. Came 1851, and a new photo technique was born. An Englishman named Fredrick Scott Archer (1813 – 1857) discovered that Collodion could be used in photography. This dawned a new era in the history of photography.

Collodion is a sticky solution. It dries quickly to a celluloid-like film. Not only can it be coated on smooth glass or asphalt coated metal sheet, it also allows other chemicals to adhere to its surface. Taking advantage of these special characteristics, Fredrick Scott Archer used Collodion as a medium to absolve other chemicals that are light sensitive. Iodine and bromide are dissolved into Collodion. Then it is coated onto a plate. The plate is subsequently bathed in a solution of silver nitrate. The reaction causes it to become a light-sensitive silver iodine. The plate, now light-sensitive, is exposed to light to capture an image. Then it gets developed, rinsed, and dried. From the moment Collodion is coated to the plate and subsequently sensitizing it and exposing it, the plate remains wet. It gets dried only after the developing and rinsing process. Therefore people called this the Wet Plate Processing.

As the utilization of Collodion became successful in photography, not only it allowed for a relatively inexpensive method to capture clear and stable images, but it is also possible to make duplication. Meanwhile Albumen Paper had become widely used. For these reasons it suddenly became a popular photographic technique. At the end not only it replaced the existing Daguerreotypes, which was more complicated and expensive, but also the Calotype, which produced poorer images. Photographers continued to use this Collodion processing until 1880, when dry emulsion processing was discovered, and displaced it for its use in photo industry.

Fast forward to today, as the world has been bombarded and flooded with electronic and digital images, Wet Plate Collodion Processing is particularly a precious gem. Its class status has elevated even higher and will remain glorious forever in the art of photography.