"The process of wet plate collodion is a process with a limited timeframe and yet there is no shutter on the camera: I am exposing using my hand and counting out loud in elephants (seconds). Is this a photograph? If I got my fancy pants Canon 5D Mark 3 out and snapped you, we may be at a 60th of a second, under lights. Your heart beats, your mind races, but what do you really do in a 60th of a second? With collodion, I use my hand to hold open the lens to expose a plate that I made for, say, five seconds. Within that time you can think. You can hear your heart beat and you can feel - nervous, comfortable, happy. Is this really just a photograph? There is more of you in it...??
Recently I had an exhibition called McArthur's Store at Dunbar Town House, a series of wet plate collodion tintype portraits of the fishermen who work from an historic creel store on the Old Harbour in the small Scottish fishing town of Dunbar. With the support of Dunbar Harbour Trust, I set up a traditional dark room within McArthur's Store, a building dating from 1658, working with the men in their place of work for a total of six months over two years.
This work is centred on people and place, exploring the issues surrounding our effect on our landscape and what imbues the very spirit of place. I decided to use this antique process to record these fishermen as collodion is sensitive at the violet end of the spectrum, delivering a clear visual depth, a suggestion that we are peering beneath the skin. These men have worked outside their whole lives, thrown around in all weathers and as such the collodion seems to accentuate their age, their chapped lined sunshine beaten skin. After beginning, I learned that the fishermen were bringing on the next generation, so in the second year of my residency I made portraits of the young boys, just recent school leavers but already experienced fishermen." Back