As digital photography continues to advance and has made cameras and developing images cheap and accessible for the average user, one photographer is reverting back to old-school techniques, but on a scale that no one has achieved before.
While the process used by Ian Ruhter to snap and develop his images is old-fashioned — and expensive — he does it using a delivery truck he converted into a giant camera. A site featuring several artistic mediums — Boooooom! — describes Ruhter’s technique as a wet plate collodion:
The collodion process was invented in the 1800s and is extremely tricky. It requires a plate to be coated in silver nitrate, and then sensitized, exposed, and developed before the plate dries .
Ruhter said that the team didn’t just take what people had been doing on small scale and use it for their own purposes. He said everything had to be reworked to allow for these larger images. “Everything had to be redesigned [...] That was one of the biggest challenges,” he said.
Due to the fact that Ruhter makes his own development chemicals, the process uses a silver compound, and it takes time to get the image right, it can cost Ruhter upwards of $500 per shot.
Watch this brief film on the process and what led Ruhter to use this technique (Note: some strong language):
Late last year, Ruhter launched an art show tour for his work. The tour, called The Wet Plate Project, is showing the photographs off for the first time. As part of Foursquare Outerwear, it is also the first time some modern-day activities, such as snowboarding, have been photographed with this technique. Capturing sporting activities posed a challenge though because of movement. Foursquare has more:
The challenge: Ruhter needed to shorten the exposure time significantly to capture fast motion under intensely bright lights. (Note: The only other person who successfully did this was Edward Muybridge, who photographed a man riding a galloping horse in 1878).
Working with the Foursquare Team, Ian took this process a step further by becoming the first in history to use modern lighting tricks, including using enough Profoto Lighting kits to overpower the sun by more than 20 times, to capture the fast motion of a snowboarder through wet plate photography.
“I never thought I would do something that has never been done before but this was in the back of my mind. Photography has been around for over 100 years and it still seemed to be an almost impossible feat. I asked around and I could not find a single person that had ever attempted this since then. I was determined to set out to do what was deemed the impossible by my colleagues.”
The concept for the ad shoot not only challenged the conventions of a vintage photography process generally reserved for long-exposure shots with little movement but successfully allowed us to create unique one of a kind imagery of our Team. Ian, who was there when snowboarding began, framed it perfectly when he identified that wet plate is the perfect platform to “defy all the rules, the same way that snowboarding started.”
Here’s a video from last year describing this endeavor:
Now, Ruhter wants to tell your story. He is traveling around the country to take people’s photographs using this method:
We want to tell your story and show your city or town through photographs of you, and people you know.