Ambrotype photography with Jeff Schotland in Kansas City

This morning, I had a really neat experience making a photograph with Jeff Schotland. Jeff is a photographer in Kansas City, and takes ambrotype and tintype photos (as well as shooting digitally).  I found out about Jeff last year when my father in law sent me an article in the newspaper about Jeff and the process of hand-making photographs.
I don’t want to assume that you readers know what an ambrotype or tintype photo is, so I’ll tell you. An ambrotype photograph is one of the earliest types of portraits made. The process came about in the 1800’s by taking a piece of glass and coating it with a liquid collodion substance and a silver nitrate. The collodion dries and the piece of glass is then inserted into a camera. Once the camera’s lens is exposed to light (a shutter, or removing the camera lens to allow light into the camera) the substance on the glass starts exposing. The glass is then put into another solution to stop the exposure process, and the negative image is developed. (you guys, there’s a lot of science here that is totally incredible!)
Here’s the first result on a 4×5 piece of glass:
My father in law went with me to Jeff’s studio, and Jeff showed us all of his old equipment.
After chatting for a while, Jeff started the lighting process and put me in place.
This camera takes the photo upside down and backwards. Notice in the next two pictures how it worked.
Jeff made a second photo of me, this one was on an 8×10 piece of glass.
Unfortunately, a digital image of this is not anywhere near the uniqueness and incredibleness (is that a word?) of the actual piece of glass in your hands. Look at the upper right corner of the picture above. You’ll see the liquid of the process, as well as the lower right corner has some textures, too. There’s detail in the glass pieces that are so cool, I’m smiling just thinking about it.

I’m still on top of the world after walking through and seeing the process of this with Jeff. He’s doing a process that is nearly 200 years old! That’s so insane to me! Not to mention it’s a one-time thing. Essentially, when making each photograph, he has one shot at getting the image exposed right. That piece of glass can be exposed to light for just a fraction of a second, and he’s got to make sure everything is in it’s place for a proper photograph to be made. (Not to mention how fast my heart was beating thinking about keeping my head still and my eyes open!)

I highly recommend this experience with Jeff, and I encourage you to look him up and check out his work. And even better, go have a photograph made!

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