Wet Collodion Revival on Instagram

Back then when photography wasn’t at the reach of the hand, even before cameras became a more or less easy to get gadget, it was pretty difficult to get an image fixed on some cardboard. You’d have to go to a photographic studio and have your picture taken, and it wasn’t as easy as just pushing a button. There were complicated chemical processes that took part in every taken picture. Now, one of those processes has come back onto Instagram.

It’s called collodion, and not many people may have heard about it for the last 120 years. Many photographic processes were discovered and introduced in the 19th century, and they all had their starting and finishing days. Collodion was no exception. Now that digital photography is at its peak, chemical processes have come back, not to museums or art galleries – but to social media.

1885 or 2016? No one could tell the difference.
1885 or 2016? No one could tell the difference.

Profiles like those of The Collodion Collective (@thecollodioncollective, 154 pictures, nearly 6K followers), Geoffrey Berliner (@geoffreyberliner, 387 pictures, 2.6K followers) or Genesee Libby Studio (@geneseelibby, 330 pictures, some 500 followers) have focused on this photographic method that employs alcohol, ether, silver nitrate or silver bromide. It’s not like taking a digital camera and pushing a button.

Many professionals have turned to this process because of its authenticity. It requires preparation and patience, but the results are simply astonishing. Having your everyday looks look like they were photographed in 1870 has some charm that may be difficult to explain, but that is certainly there. It’s worth noticing that collodion doesn’t let you copy original photographs, as digital cameras do. Each collodion crystal plaque is entirely unique. Instagram, of course, has made it possible for collodion lovers to get those images to new life, to share them with the world. Past and present united by image – and by Instagram.

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