Boxes! Millions and millions of boxes!

The people around me know I have a bit of a quirk. Well, actually it’s one of several – but I just love boxes! My latest venture into wet collodion photography has provided me with a brilliant excuse to go and find/ make some.

A few weeks ago, Dusseldorf hosted a small bookfair along the Rhine. The day we went the weather had turned foul (just after I picked up ‘Fashion: Theory – photographs and Essays by David Bailey, Anthony Barboza, Arthur Elgort, Horst, Erica Lennard, Jimmy Moore, Jean Pagliuso and Chris von Wangenheim’, Edited by Carol Di Grappa, Lustrum Press, 1980). It provides the reader with the photographer’s background and technical information, as well as some stunning fashion images. It is available on Amazon should you be interested in getting it for yourself.




But, as I said, the weather turned foul – into a full-blown storm even, that the moment we decided to flee into the town center, social convention forced us to stay in the book dealer’s tent, holding up a few of the bookshelves amongst those that were tumbling down all around us. After that gale had passed – most of the tents were shut! I had to return the following day to pick up the gorgeous paper I had spotted earlier. I got these from Buch + Papier where bookbinder Annette Engels sells all sorts of papers and ways to present paper materials including frames, albums, calendars etc.


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Seeing I have already shot a few Ambrotypes I wish to keep, I decided to make a storage/ transportation box for them. The first time I hauled my glass plate positives over to Germany, I wrapped them in acid-free white paper sheets, but found that the paper stuck a little to the varnish. Since then, I have made and used these boxes, which makes me feel much more at ease.


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They may not be perfect yet, but they serve their purpose. In this size, the glass plate still fits into the lid, which – covered in a black newspaper clipping – serves well as a presentation method.

Image update

I’d like to take a moment and greet everyone that’s recently signed up for the news feed or the newsletter – ever since I’ve started the Large Format Project, we’ve grown from around 200 to nearly 600! So: Hellooo! I hope my blog and/ or website will bring some inspiration or entertainment value to your life!

It seems I’ll be having some extra time on my hands now that my friend Georgiana has left Germany to move back to her home country Romania, to find work. She had trouble learning the language and it’s hard to find a job in Germany without that skill and sad as her departure may be, I do very much hope she’ll have more luck in Bucharest. I already envy her friends that get to see her on a regular basis!

Now, in today’s post, I will not be whining any more about my sad, sad loss. Instead, I’ll be catching up on some images I have promised in some previous blog write-ups, but never actually shared, and some images of an event I never even mentioned.



A good number of weeks ago, we went to Dusseldorf’s Japan Day. You can read the original post here. I took some images on my Uber cool but highly fickle Hanimex Electra II using Kodak Ektra 100 film (35 mm color with 36 exposures). The film had been loaded since we lived in Sydney, and I already shot half the film at our local Bondi Beach. Unlucky as I was this time, the film had not loaded correctly, and must have slipped inside the camera. All exposures came out doubled up! Even though it does nothing to detract from the nice quality of the film, or the vintage feel the camera seems to lend to the images, or even the fact that it looks quite cool – I think it’s a shame I don’t have a ‘back-up’ of the images I had taken. But I suppose that’s the risk you take when shooting film….


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In the last session on wet-plate photography, I shot some images of Taz, that came out very well – and some of Angela, where I had more than one technical hick-up. I have since then scanned and given them their images and feel it would be only right to share a few of them here as well. I have taken some samples from the original scans and will be putting them into a separate troubleshooting section on the site, possibly within this week.


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At the start of August, we went to Soest to visit their yearly medieval event. We were recommended this fair by a couple that attended the medieval fair at Xanten a few months earlier. They stated that ‘it was the biggest and best around and each year they were looking forward to it’. This obviously sounded great so we looked up the fair, planned and booked our trip. We had no car, so had to go by train, taking us nearly 2 hours to get there and when we finally did – it was such a downer! There was hardly any signposting and the stands and performances were dotted through the town center. Not that it’s huge, but searching for the next stall? That takes all the fun out of it! We were lucky enough to be at the right place when the parade hit the main street and I got a few nice shots of it too.

The main event was taking place between the inner and outer defensive walls, charging 2 euros per person to walk along a few stands and people sweating their pants off in re-enactment gear, having lunch. Truth be told, we COULD have stuck around till the evening, when they would be re-enacting the battle, but we were knackered and fed up and too cheap to pay the 20 euros to sit on an uncomfortable stadium stand! Needless to say, we were not impressed…..

I shot 3 rolls of film this day and managed to ruin one of them by not following the manual (what do you mean, I cannot stand develop kodak?!? Let’s just see about that shall we??__ please note: you cannot stand develop Kodak Tmax 100 in Rodinal -_-)


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Large Format Photography – Day 18 in the Netherlands

On the Thursday I decided I would try and photograph the little pond we were shooting at yesterday, but this time I would want to photograph the location, using that cheap projector lens and the recessed lens board. I had cut a hole in a jar lid, and taped it to the back of the lens to serve as a F-stop. I guestimated the size of the hole to be roughly a f11-16 hole to see what it would do – and something it indeed did!

I set up and shot 2 plates, one at 3 seconds and the second one at 6 seconds. The 6 second exposure clearly being too long – the 3 second one looking pretty good. But then….. disaster struck!!!!


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A swoosh of wind picked up my darkbox and threw it right over! My silver bath emptied into the tent, along with the developer dripoffs that came from the first 2 plates. I was only fortunate that I didn’t use all my silver bath in the one go – and that nearly all the fluids were caught in the plastic that makes up my tent. I cursed, then panicked, then set to mopping up what I could salvage and drying off the rest.


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After setting up the darkbox again – this time between the car doors sheltered as best I could from the wind – the resulting plate was an abomination. The grey flecks (like film grain) and severe fog make it hard to see what is being pictured. The surface texture looks like sand mixed with scum. The scene is still the pond, at 3 seconds. That was it. My silverbath needs desperate servicing and I was stuck for the rest of the afternoon with clouds and  rain. I packed up and retuned home…..

I did some additional work on the new darkbox and after today I don’t think I’ll make it quite a high or as slender as the previous one. I’ll try not to have an opening that needs opening and closing and I’m contemplating such a low one as to use it with a small seat or kneeled.


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Large Format Photography – Day 17 in the Netherlands

On the Wednesday I would meet Angela Verkade. She was the very first person to respond to the previously mentioned casting call on Model Mayhem and even though she is a beginning model I really liked her look and enthusiasm. You can find her Model Mayhem profile here. She travelled down from Lelystad for the shoot and had brought along the most perfect white gown for our look. I had gotten some fresh flowers in the morning to finish it off.

Our initial plan was to find an outside location, shoot and then return to the house to shoot a few more plates. I had really wanted to try shooting in the field and the weather had prevented it the day before. Driving around, we found a beautiful little pond, across the street from a farm and, after asking the owner’s permission, we set up shop. We covered her head with flowers, attracting all sort of local wildlife, including bees, flies, dragonflies and tourists.

We shot a few plates, but I was having some issues. It was quite warm,  the collodion dried very very quickly and the plates dried before we could get them shot and developed. I also managed to lose some plates: dropping the plate holder, removing the plate holder from the back of the camera to re-focus to discover I already opened the back, bad pouring……. *sigh* I think I overexposed on some plates. Some are fogged due to my darkbox being a little busted and blowing open in the wind. The collodion made some strange markings on the plate……AND worse thing is – you can’t see much of the surroundings on the plates we have! We could’ve stayed at the house! *grumble*

In the end we had to finish a little earlier than planned, but we still had about 7-8 plates. I took them home in separate water trays and washed them before setting them to dry. And they started flaking!!! Worse than I had ever seen before. Now I’m thinking it’s the warmth, the sunlight or God knows what else. I’ll have to figure it out and start updating my troubleshooting section. I believe I can easily make a list of 10-15 common problems I’ve encountered already.

I ended up having to throw one of the images out completely as it was so bad, it could not be saved. At least, not by me. A couple of others, I transferred to paper, removing the parts that were crumpled and dried crookedly and therefore beyond repair. Hopefully they’ll dry a bit better and I’ll be able to scan them at least. Let’s just say that I really enjoyed the shoot, but technically it wasn’t my finest hour…….Hopefully we’ll get another chance in September!


(Scans of the shoot will appear in an update on the blog – the plates are a little….unwilling to be photographed)


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Large Format Photography – Day 16 in the Netherlands

On the Tuesday I would meet Taz. He was one of the models that had responded to my casting call on Model Mayhem – where I asked for models and a creative team to shoot wet plates.  You can view his profile here. This rather handsome young man would travel down from Gouda to Deventer Central Station, where I was to collect him by car. Even though I have photographed many a person, and had photographed a few family members on wet-plate – I had not done a full model shoot using this process before.

Even though Taz was on time, his selection of outfits suited the occasion very well and I was as prepared as I could’ve been – the weather was not playing game. There were a lot of clouds with the occasional shower, forcing us to flee back inside. Towards the end of the day I had some pouring issues with the collodion, but thank goodness nothing serious – even though I did have some flaking issues again after the plates had dried. Before the end of the day, we managed to shoot some beautiful plates (for some reason, I really really love the image of his shoulder, on the right side of the triptych), and I can really see why most wet plate shooters are so fond of shooting portraits!


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Large Format Photography – Day 15 in the Netherlands

For this visit, I took the train on Sunday evening, found myself a spot to sit (after some hassle with a group of 5 men who had not reserved their seats, but were trying to ‘reserve’ them for each other in a crowded train) and set to work on the Monday morning. I had ordered blackout curtain fabric to stitch into a darktent cloth and set to sewing it. What should have taken 15-20 minutes turned into a full-on battle with the sewing machine that would either not stitch straight, not stitch fast or not stitch at all! My mum had to jump in to save the day – and we got it done in the end. It looked good – the white lines onto the black fabric made it’s appearance a bit tent-like and actually fairly professional-looking.

Attaching it to the dark box was a right pain with nails coming through the sides and when it came to attaching it to the top, the whole thing came down! The front lid broke off and it’s fair to say it was a disaster in general. The top may be too heavy due to the fabric, the box too narrow and too light-weight to hold it up. Leaving the mess to think it over, I decided to focus on my silverbox instead. I wouldn’t make time to do anything else to the darkbox until Thursday/ Friday, making some much-needed adjustments.


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In the time I spent in Dusseldorf, I had hand-cut and glued acrylic plates to make up a small tank to hold plates up to 12 x 16 cm. I decided to try the smallest size first to test my craftsmanship and hopefully not have too much silver nitrate leak all over the place – and to make it in clear acrylic as it was the cheapest I could find. And the first tests were good! The tank withstood holding water for several hours (that was possibly the least it could do!) and when testing with silver nitrate, everything went fine. Even the little lid I made with it fits like a glove! I had made a start on the dipper, when my mum pulled out some left-over silver wire from a jewellery making course she took years ago. The construction was simple, dripping 2 little holes and bending the wire to hold the plates. It works fantastically and feels very very balanced. The only concern I have at present is that the silver wire is not a pure silver as it seems to get eaten away by the silver bath, and thus contaminating it. I’ll need to have look into that!

I set to making a wooden box to hold the clear plastic acrylic tank and this is where I hit another snag. Making the bottom went fine – even though I could have made it a little bigger to easily slide in the acrylic tank, but it fits. The top, however, I couldn’t close. I failed to keep the additional height of the tank and the dipper into consideration and had to make a new lid. This one is much deeper and fits like a charm with room to spare.


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Later in the evening, I took the camera with the projector lens out for a little drive to test how far it would focus. Remember how last time I showed you the creation of the recessed lens plate? The plane of focus is still very shallow since it still has no f-stops, but it works! I can even focus on the clouds! Granted, it will never, ever be pinsharp, but I’m happy with it nontheless! Huzzah!!


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Dusseldorf: NRW-Forum – Azzedine Alaia

Today Georgiana and myself hauled ourselves over to the NRW-Forum, to see the Azzedine Alaia fashion exhibit. We were supposed to go yesterday, on my birthday, but life got in the way (actually, the cleaning lady that doesn’t have the key to Georgiana’s apartment) The exhibit is great, fairly big and spacious, but after having been round we just wanted MOOOORE!!! The entry price is fair, at 5,80 euro and it will take you roughly 1 hour to see everything, and see much of the catwalk video footage on the first floor. The little bookshop next to the entrance is also not to miss as they have a great selection of fashion and photography books, in a mixture of German and English text formats.

Many of the items on show date from between 2003 – present and all pieces seem quite wearable. Some of the dresses up close seemed to be made from extremely cheap material, that were worked and detailed in the most exquisite ways. It was amazing to behold. The detailing and craftsmanship are second to none and one could gawk at any piece for a good few moments before discovering all the minute clever tailoring solutions to give the garment it’s shape, without losing the cleanliness of the lines.

Even though having been told off for taking photo’s, I couldn’t help myself……When I die, please bury me in that stunning sleek purple dress!


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