A collective of collodion tintype photographers will be joining a team of ecologists to survey the Mojave desert.
This January we have been given the opportunity to join two ecologists stationed in northern Arizona, who will guide us on a trip through the Mojave Desert. Following in the footsteps of wet plate photographers before us, we will document the ever-changing landscape, fauna and culture of this diverse region.
Over the course of 10 days we will drive 1,100 miles visiting the remote and forsaken corridors of the world, including Death Valley and the Salton Sea. Not only will we be creating tintypes, but a variety of drawings, writings and photographs that we will publish in a limited edition zine.
Art Meets Science!
Gennaro Falco and Adam Polinko are two ecologists with interests in forest health and applied silviculture. Their knowledge of ecosystem processes, soils and community interactions will be an invaluable asset to exploring the natural history of the region. Inspired by the legacies left by naturalists such as George Englemann and Charles Wright, Adam and Gennaro will lead us across 1,100 miles of vast terrain in an expedition-grade pickup truck. They will also be contributing fieldnotes for the zine and e-mail update.
Over the course of our trip we will be creating works and writings to tackle the theme of community interaction within the Mojave Desert. Not only will we be visiting places that have gone unchanged for thousands of years, we will also be visiting man-made ecological disasters such as the Salton Sea. Our art and writings will focus on the effects that humans have on the landscape and their environment.
The body of work we publish in the zine will not be summed up by a mere collection of tintypes. While our primary medium is wetplate, we will also be shooting digital, 35mm and large format film. Apart from photography we plan to create pen and ink illustrations of the wildlife, landscapes and people we find along the way. A selection of these works will be paired with ecological field notes, as well as our personal observations from the trip. The final zine will run 20-40 pages and be limited to 100 issues.
The wet plate collodion process was introduced in the 1850’s and requires a plate of polished metal (tintype) or glass (ambrotype) to be coated, sensitized, exposed and developed within about 15 minutes. It is an instantaneous process, which requires the photographer not only to understand the subtleties of the craft but to also to carry their chemicals and darkroom in the field. The resulting image is an impression of photo sensitive silver on polished metal and is often described as “ethereal and haunting”; it is also exceptionally archival.
The wet plate collodion process begins with coating a plate of polished metal or glass with a tacky substance called collodion. The plate is dipped in a bath of silver nitrate and placed into a film holder. The film holder is then exposed in the camera and immediately carried back to the darkroom for developing. After development the plate can be brought into the light to be fixed. The image making process takes less than fifteen minutes, as the plate cannot dry, hence the name “wet-plate.”
Once the image is dried, it is varnished with a fragrant lavender oil and gum sandarac. Tintypes are exceptionally durable pieces that will last for generations. It is not uncommon to find tintypes from the 19th century that are still in excellent condition.
To make this expedition possible we request your support for an array of necessities, which include:
Travel - $1576
Plane Tickets, Baggage Fees and Gasoline
Chemicals and Supplies - $429
Silver Nitrate, Collodion USP, Ether, Cadmium Bromide, Ammonium Bromide, Potassium Iodide, Ferrous Sulfate, Rapid Fixer, Grain Alcohol, Aluminum Plates and Hazardous Material Shipping Fees.
Printed Materials - $650
For printing Zines, Archival Prints and Postcards
Food – $200
Frijoles, Arroz, Queso y Chicharrones.
Fees – $460
Kickstarter, Amazon and IRS Fees based on $2800 Goal
Total Costs - $3315
Our goal is to reach $2,800-which will help to cover a portion of the project's expenses. Any extra donations will go toward covering unexpected expenses and advancing our studio through purchasing better lighting and a larger camera. As compensation for your generous contributions you will receive a share of the works we produce on our trip.
Risks and challenges Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
For the entirety of our trip we'll be camping in the desert, dealing with elevation and temperature fluctuations. This will not only be physically challenging, but will pose problems for our chemicals.
Most of our darkroom chemicals are not allowed on board an airplane, so we will have to ship them cross country, or order them new from the manufacturer.
On top of actually travelling to these places, we will have to successfully create many works of art during the course of our trip. Collodion photography is a very temperamental medium, posing a myriad of problems when brought into the field.
Have a question? If the info above doesn't help, you can ask the project creator directly.