1. I think I needed a “brain break”
2. I realized I needed to do a lot of reflecting and assessment of how the project has grown and changed over the course of its life
I thought I would take a little time off in between wrapping up the project and leaving from Alabama, but that hasn’t quite happened like I thought. I’ve decided to keep shooting for as long as I can and try to capture as many portraits as possible. It’s been a good decision in many ways because I’ve been able to revisit some portraits and reshoot one special portrait of my friend and local artist, Michelle Hopkins (@poenut35).
You can see how the project began with Michelle’s portrait below—it’s an image that shows her full body, has a wide angle of view and highlights the traditional furniture I was planning on using. It was the first successful plate of a Selmian I created for the project. I was able to include all things I had envisioned in the image (these are listed in the first blog post I created).
Bringing in our “no name” lens (which actually turned out to be a very nice French Derogy lens) was the key. Doug and I almost didn’t pack it when we were getting ready to leave Elk Grove. With the usage of the French lens, the portraits got closer and more intimate as the project wore on. The exposures ranged from 2 seconds to 4 seconds depending on the subject and what they were wearing. The portraits fundamentally changed from my initial vision.
I’m now in final stages of the project and able to reflect on how the images have changed over the course of four months. The plates reveal more intimate and examined visages of the subjects I am photographing. With every day that passes, I feel that the plates get closer and closer to revealing the essence of the subject. Upon reflecting on the first plate I made, I felt I had to revisit Michelle and photograph her again to really see how much the imagery had changed.
I also feel that these final plates show how much I have been able to master the art of collodion image making. I’ve never been able to spend so much time consistently shooting. I’ve been able to problem solve in a way that I think I never would have been able to if I hadn’t had this time to devote to my craft. Before the project started, I had grown a little bored with collodion image making. I don’t think it was that I wanted to stop creating collodion photographs, but I was hitting roadblock after roadblock with sessions. I was getting frustrated with having fewer successes than failures.
Going into a session back in California, I often had a sense of dread that something might go wrong or that my chemistry would derail from the norm. This happened sometimes and when it did, I was at times not able to troubleshoot quickly if problems occurred. I could always fix the problem, but it took a while. Sometimes Doug and I would have to reschedule the model and go back to the drawing board to figure out how the next session would go. When I started making plates, it went very smoothly for a while. That success was enough of an incentive to keep going when trouble came calling.
With this experience, I feel much more confident approaching a session with someone I have never met. I feel much more confident flowing large plates and estimating the amount of chemistry I will need for each session. I feel like I can take on obstacles head on and anticipate how the session might go.
I feel very prepared and that’s a very good thing. I am reminded that sometimes unexpected results really are the best. I had a teacher in college that would tell me that just when I had things all figured out, that was the best time to change course.
I changed course with this project without even really knowing it. I’m so happy that happened—I’m so happy that something unexpected occurred.