I’ve been wanting to write for a while about images I made with a brilliant photographic artist MJM Photography, who I’ve worked quite a lot with over the last year or so.
Matt shoots at his home using the early photographic process ‘collodion wet plate’, which as some of you may know, is an extremely difficult, sometimes dangerous, but beautiful method to create images.
I thoroughly enjoy our shoots, during which we also spend time leafing through his fascinating collection of photography books, sharing inspirations and our own experiences, discussing artist’s techniques and pondering over the different elements of making a meaningful photograph.
I think every art model understandably adores wet plate, it is such an intense form of being photographed, capturing so much detail and character, that appeals hugely to open, depthy, searching souls. Though with such effort and expense to make each plate (I think Matt will average about 6 images per 8 hour day) it’s a heavy responsibility not to mess up your air time.
The act of the lens being open for between 5-30 seconds, means you have to carefully stay as still as possible without breathing too extremely, swaying or twitching, as your eyes and soul absorb onto the film. With a mixture of concentration and tranquility, conveying a particularly delicate or reverberating emotion during this long exposure, trying to keep it brilliantly true without losing hold or altering it, feels like tensely walking a mental tightrope, hopping back onto hard ground with a sigh of relief (and sometimes a celebratory squeal) once the lens-cap is replaced. It is a thrilling thing. Then you go and watch the process of developing the image whilst wearing a little red headtorch, chemically mining the darkroom for sparkling visual gemstones to bring out into the daylight. That is the closest to creative ‘magic’ I think I’ve felt.
I have huge admiration for the astounding dedication involved in this often frustrating form of alternative photography, and you can get an insight into the rollercoaster of alchemy nightmares and revelations, honest musings and soul-searching on Matt’s website and blog www.deep-perception.com
Whilst he draws much inspiration from the historic, ethereal talents of Julia Margaret Cameron, it did make me laugh to read that one of his blog posts cites Walter White from Breaking Bad as an inspiration for his technical issues –
‘It’s his absolute attention to detail, cleanliness and scientific approach that has partly helped me to resolve my current wetplate fog issues. I now keep my
Meth Lab Darkroom tidy and clean out everything with distilled water after use.’ 🙂
If you have a further read you can see Matt is really on an ongoing journey into finding what kind of portraiture he wants to create, and I think it’s quite rare to find people so authentic in sharing the conflicts, confusion and breakthroughs in their art.
In my role as the subject, it’s of great value to me to try my utmost in understand these varying threads of thought and what is trying to be said or conveyed to the viewer. I am a vessel for the message, and therefore I am so grateful when a photographer lets me into their thought process, and also opens the dialogue for me to contribute.
We started out with quite unposed simple portraits, and then moved to experimenting with more conceptual and creative styles. It’s a tricky battle I have heard from some other photographers, irrespective of their medium, not wanting results to be too contrived, for the concept not to overpower or the aesthetic to distract from the meaning. And though wet plate is a stunning technique, just the same as any type of photography, it needs added imagination and intervention to transcend to something more. A search into the balance of truth and creativity.
So these are some of the images I was part of so far, in rough order of the shoots we did. More featuring fellow models Ella Rose & Raphaella, are in this gallery – take a look. They are gorgeously engaging.
The yearning to be understood was one of the notions we explored to begin with, a desperation to be seen, and for our voice to be heard. In some of the images, I think they also appear as though I am looking into a mirror at myself. We also discussed having a meditative, trance-like mood, which I think shows up particularly in the last image where we deciding to try purposely closing my eyes halfway though, giving a mystical, milky translucence to the lids.
Reflecting at the images all together, I can see a glimpse of my own transition through the year, with varying feelings infused into the images. This type of portraiture is of course a powerful way to express a personal moment in time, or memories revisited, and allow yourself to be in the moment. For some sessions I had emotions burning inside me like a dark embers, and other times a resilience or contentment was present. The more I look the more I see I was revealing of, and to, myself.
It’s quite interesting to click through the images at rapid speed for a flickbook style insight, or possibly it feels somewhat like a flashback from a haunting mystery movie 🙂
It makes me wonder, if (as an experiment) some other photographers took even half the extra time to think about portraits as much as someone like Matt does, where every frame requires such extreme consideration, what more would they see, or create? I ask myself this also. Of course digital photography is full of different possibilities, and doesn’t have to worry about the lack of choice or spontaneity, but it can be an interesting challenge to put a strict limitation on number of frames, accompanied by more preparational observations.
If anyone reading feels they would like to get more from their photography, and studying inspirations as art, there is a great little post about taking time to truly ask yourself why certain images do or don’t appeal, which I think is just generally inspiring for taking time on anything, plus the importance of cutting & sticking (a passionate pastime of mine I’ve been recently getting back into) – http://deep-perception.com/moleskin-notebooks-and-pritt-stick/
I look forward to working further with Matt some time in 2016 and wearing the red headtorch again 🙂
Fun and adventures in the darkroom
I would love to know what you think of these portraits, if you get chance to look through, and tell me what you see or feel, I’d be so grateful and interested to hear from you. Thanks for reading!
~ Professional UK Model Ivory Flame ~