Posts tagged ‘collodion’
It’s been over a year since I made any wet plate collodion pictures. I did two shoots on Friday in Deering Oaks Park in Portland. One was for fun, one for fun and a bit of profit. Here’s some plates from the former. The latter are already boxed and ready to ship.
This is Portland Breakwater light in South Portland, Maine. It’s known to all the locals as Bug Light. I don’t know why, exactly. It’s a cute little spark plug of a light marking the south side of Portland Harbor. The tower is just 26 feet tall. The first light went to work there in 1855. This tower went to work in June 1875. The original was built of wood. The second, and current, tower is made of cast iron and brick. It was made redundant by floating buoys and went dark in 1942. It was restored and relighted in 2002. Now it flashes a white light every 4 seconds at night. A whole lot more info on the light can be found at the New England Lighthouse website.
In my late teens and early 20s, I worked at the Spurwink School, not far from the light. Back then, I would go to the light nearly every day after work. There was a boat launch and the ramshackle, rotting remains of a series of former Liberty Ship yards and factory warehouses. Best of all, there was a great view of Portland. It was usually quiet and seedy. Just the place for a brooding young man to find room to think.
Fishing boats would amble by, going in and out of the harbor. The ferry to Nova Scotia, the Scotia Prince, would slide through the waves just before dinner time, like clockwork, nearly every day. Seagulls whirled overhead. The wind blew. All the while, you could hear a steady the steady murmur of Portland, breathing across the water.
Now, it’s all been cleaned up. The warehouses are gone, replaced with a green park. Folks walk their dogs, kids fly kites, tour busses bring pilgrims to see the restored light. It’s all very nice. But I liked it better back then, when it felt like my secret hiding place.
One day, when I was working for the Spurwink School, singing songs with specials needs kids for a paycheck, I drove up to the old light after work. It was in the early spring of something like 1991 or 1992. A man was coming out of the light, just packing his tools and getting ready to go home. I spoke to him for a few minutes. He was doing some repairs on the light, painting and restoring the cast iron details. After he was gone, I walked out to the light, over the granite slabs, to see how it looked. I absentmindedly put my hand on the doorknob and it opened. I could barely believe it.
Here are two half-plate collodion portraits of Heather on aluminum. They were made out by Bug Light (Portland Breakwater Lighthouse) a couple of weeks ago. It was chilly by the October ocean, but she toughed it out — and so did my developer.
I went out there to shoot pictures of the lighthouse (which I will post later) and Heather came to see what it was all about. As so often happens when you’re making collodion pictures, demonstrations turn into portraits. It’s just how it seems to work out.
Lot’s of people stopped by to check out what we were doing. Heather acted as my spokesperson while I was under the dark cloth developing plates. She was a Public Affairs Officer in the Army, so she’s had tougher gigs. It was Columbus Day weekend. Numerous tour busses, stuffed with leaf-peepers stopped by to see the lighthouse. It’s an easy one to get to. Many of them snapped pictures of me and my oldsey-timesey gear after burning lighthouse images on their CCD sensors. I’m getting used to accounting for the CDF, or collodion delay factor, when shooting in public places. It’s OK with me. After years of performing and shooting for newspapers, I’m cool with talking to strangers. I like it.
John’s a former Marine, former Airman, recipient of the Purple Heart and former police officer. He’s also a hell of a good guy. I’m glad he came to the studio on World Wet Plate Collodion Day. Thanks, John.