YOU WON’T FIND a mess of power cables following in the wake of photographer Lindsay Ross. She prefers an analog operation.
Her works, which decorate the walls of the Faust Haus and the pages of this magazine, seek to revive the art of wetplate collodion. A largely forgotten craft that harkens back to the 1800s, it’s a painstakingly technical process that requires an exacting eye, years of practice, and a seemingly limitless supply of patience. For Ross, it’s a chance to connect to her craft on a deeper level. “It really disengages the ego because it’s so engaging physically,” she says. “The whole process slows down the image-making pace, and I think that’s for the better.”
IN THE WET plate collodion process, the photographer is required to have a darkroom on-site in order to sensitize, expose, and develop the image on the glass within a 10-minute window. The glass, which becomes the film, is placed in a light-tight film holder. The image is focused onto a piece of frosted glass in the back of the camera called the ground glass. The image is then projected through a lens onto the film in the film holder, and the photographer develops the image on the glass. The images are direct positives on the substrates and cannot be reproduced, meaning the film itself becomes the object that hangs on the wall.
THE RESULT IS a photograph that, composition and subject matter aside, finds its initial value in the simple fact that it cannot be edited or re-created. It’s a moment in time, uniquely rendered by Ross in her signature style. “I would define my work as authentic, grounded, and yet sublime,” Ross tells us. “There is always an element of labor and struggle against the constraints of the process, as though the struggle is a part of the work itself, and I think part of what makes my work beautiful is the potential for error. It feels very human and mortal.”