Discussion Topic: Old Processes, New Advertising

Robert Christian Malmberg's "Converse sneakers"

Many photographers today are reviving the photographic processes of the Civil War era. A California news article reports on several photographers in San Francisco who are producing photographs with the wet-plate process. Even Louis Vuitton highlights wet-plate photography in his digital project Double Exposure for the Fall/Winter 2011/2012 ad campaign. Notice how both the news article and film clips emphasize the portrayal of character in wet-plate photography. What do you think are some reasons for the nostalgic return to nineteenth-century processes?

Read the article on San Francisco-area photographers here:

Watch a video on Sam Taylor-Woods, one of the photographers on the Vuitton campaign:

Explore the official site of Louis Vuitton’s Double Exposure campaign on Facebook:

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Please post your responses by Saturday, March 3.   

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9 Responses to Discussion Topic: Old Processes, New Advertising

  1. kathrynli says:

    There may be many reasons for revival of old processes. It is similar to clothing and fashion. Many teenagers now are dressing like how their grandparents used to dress. It is personalized by one’s individual style. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Some people want to be different from what is called “normal” now. A majority of people seem to have invested in a dslr camera because it provides amazing results and you can do a lot with the gadget. However, others may choose to use the old schooled Fuji film cameras where they print out the photo from the actual camera and they’ll have to wait a minute or so for the image to appear. It is special because it is the only picture. You cannot recapture the same photo. Sure, you can scan it or copy it and you’ll have a duplicate, but it is never the same. It captures that moment and sometimes it is pretty cute to have something like that. It makes it priceless.

  2. I think that the wet-plate photography nowadays is used to give the pictures a different style, and an old look. While during the Civil War era this process was popular because it reduced exposure time, now it is becoming popular because it gives a stylish look to a photograph not equally obtained by any other method. Even though the process that involves the taking of the picture and the development of it has to be done within ten to fifteen minutes, before the chemicals dry, it is not seen as an inconvenience since it is rewarded by a unique look in the photograph that is very well appreciated by many.

  3. Who doesn’t appreciate an artist that masters their medium? A photographer that can revert to non-digital forms of producing images definitely sets themselves apart from today’s modern-method, digital photographers.

    The wet-plate process, which produces beautifully imperfect images of art, brings a sense of nostalgia to its viewer. When almost all images in print media are being made with digital cameras, using this form of photographic development makes the images stand out–making the viewer stop to question, “Why does this look so different? What makes it stand apart from all the other images?” Not only does it display the photographer’s skill set and artistic abilities, but it somehow points to the genius behind the advertising (and their ability to know, “Hey–this is going to get the attention of our customers, as well as the attention of those that appreciate photography/art!”)

    I agree with what both kathrynli and Florencia Garcia’s responses–there is something unique and special about using old school methods to produce modern works of art; it not only pay homage to photography’s historical practices, but also shows images in new ways to its viewers.

  4. ramlakhanp says:

    Wet plate is a very tedious process that refines the picture into a magical work of art. It seems to me we all are all saturated with a disposal imagery of today, but finding a photographic technique such as the wet-plate process that can counter that makes that era outshine any new device that they currently have . The wet plate process is a combination of chemicals and time that end up with are remarkable picture that capture what most people don’t see this makes the picture nostalgic. Bringing back something old and reinventing its character of uniqueness are what photographers always looking to capture. The new best thing becomes what they did in the past, having new technological devices isn’t always the best thing because most of these cameras carry one standard of purpose. The nineteenth century processes capture that single moment in time and cannot be duplicated that what makes it so unique. Mastering a technique such as this one takes a lot of skills and patience, Sam Taylor- Woods describes mastering such art makes the viewers more interested towards what’s to come. From her work she has gone above and beyond and brought back the true essence of capturing a picture.

  5. Romaine says:

    The old becoming the new. In this day and age, the market is flooded with photography done with the same process. Normally a digital camera followed by touch-ups with Photoshop, the wet-plates process is new to the current generation of photographers and such may have huge appeal to some. A lot of photographers may be attempting to find their style of capturing so they attempt many different types of photography and techniques. Producing wet-plate process photography in this age is pretty rare and unique, which could lead to a photographers picture standing out among the cluster of digital photography on the market. I am truly sure photographers are attracted to wet-plating due to the process in which the end product is obtain, the visual style of wet-plating can easily be reproduced using Photoshop. Its good to see some photographers like doing things the natural way.

  6. zee215 says:

    There can be many reasons for why a long dormant technique is brought back. The wet-plate collodion process could be making a come back for a few different reasons.

    There have been major advancements in the technology used in DSLRs. The megapixel war, where every company was trying to out do each other. Now we are seeing big advancements in mirror-less cameras. Every photo taken is now photoshopped and changed some how.

    Artists looking to distinguish themselves from the “pack” are trying different things. Bringing back an art form not used anymore is one of the ways they can accomplish this. The love for nostalgia is one thing that is universal within all of us. Looking at old pictures of our parents or grandparents bring thought of the “good old days” when things seemed perfect. The popularity of apps like Instagram and Hipstamatic show that people love the old time look and imperfections seen in those photos.

    Some artists might feel that all this technology is minimizing their talent. The need to pull away from the app crowd is greater with all these technological advancements. What better way to do that then revert back to something that hasn’t been done in a century. This lets them create something that is unique and rare. It is not an easy process and might give a sense of fulfillment when accomplished. The need for the subject to hold a pose for about 30 seconds also causes an authentic look which is hard to duplicate. Its almost like a subject holding a pose for a painting giving it a certain beauty.

    It all comes down to creating something that causes a sense of feeling for the viewer. The artist can accomplishes this with the use of nostalgia.

  7. Alexis Y says:

    I believe that the wet- plate gives a sense of quality that digital cameras don’t have. One negative about it is that you won’t be able to capture movement, such as a jump, because the image takes about 30 seconds to capture the image, standing still is all you can do. However, I believe that the images of the wet-plate give this 3-D type look. There is a sense of gloss that I feel you can’t capture with a digital camera. It’s more eye- catching. For me I believe the better picture taken were that of the 19th century. They took their time with the photo giving it the better quality, which you can’t see from a digital camera. You give the viewers a different way to look at photography.

  8. Jian Huang says:

    after reading the article i believe that the wet plate definitely gives more character to the photo, because all photos taken with the wet plate method will appear to have a haunting quality which is hard to replicate. however the disadvantage is that the photographer have less than 10 minutes to finish everything, this including applying collodion up till the final product.

  9. I understand why photographers are going old fashion on regards to the method used to take their pictures, I think what they are doing is trying to set apart from other photographers. I would love to have my picture taken using the wet- plate process not because I don’t like digital cameras but because it would be something special, unique, and new to many people’s eyes.
    I am pretty sure a lot of people don’t know about this process and they would be amazed to see it, so I think is a very smart idea to bring this wet plate process back to life.

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