Students enjoy a magical picture of the past

Beth Roberts
Beth Roberts

TODAY’S photographers are used to adding filters at the touch of a few buttons on their phones or computers.

However, photography students from Priestley College recently discovered what it was like to produce a photograph in the 1850s and the results were magical.

Under the watchful eyes of experts from Black Glass Studios in High Street, Runcorn, they created images that transported them back in time.

“We are encouraging the students to think differently about photography rather than just being on a computer and working digitally,” said Tutor Kevin Crooks.

“They become intrigued by what is about to appear and the end result is magical.”

Wet plate is one of the earliest forms of photography having been invented in the 1850s and involved models sitting for between five and 15 seconds while the image is taken.

It revolutionised Victorian society leading to a global explosion of portrait studios.

The images are photographed directly onto glass or metal and a clever use of chemicals and skill in the darkroom transforms the milky-looking negative into a recognisable photograph.

All of this must be done whilst the chemicals on the plate are still wet, which gives the process its name.

The pictures are a mirror image of ‘real life’ so any writing appears backwards.

“We aim to open up new ways of thinking about image making and the students at Priestley really engaged with the pre-digital techniques they were introduced to,” said Casey Carlin, from Black Glass Studios.

“Creative thinking is actively encouraged by the tutors so it was fantastic to hear the ideas that the workshop generated.”

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