New Wetplate Workshop at VillaRoquette

Wetplate collodion photography workshop at VillaRoquette

John Brewer using a 19th century camera at Villa Roquette

Our next workshop at Villa Roquette wetplate collodion workshop september 2025 will be on the weekend of September 26/27 2015.

It is run by John Brewer wetplate collodion workshops.

The cost of the two day workshop is £325, or £475 which includes two nights full board accommodation. All materials are included and there is a wide selection of cameras and equipment for your use. Payment can be made in UK Sterling or euro

The accommodation includes a double room so you can bring your partner, there is only a small extra charge of £25 if the second person wishes to join us for lunches and dinner on the two days, breakfasts are included already.

Students on the course can come earlier and stay later, as many days as they like. All darkroom and lab facilities are available and our cameras can be used. There would be a charge for extra materials and chemistry used

An interesting feature of this course is the availability of a fully equipped mobile darkroom designed for wetplate work.

Wetplate collodion workshop at villaroquette with mobile darkroom

Mobile Darkroom camera on roof

Students on the collodion course can get into the beautiful local countryside and make wet plate collodion work. We use both tin and glass plates.

On The Road

Not Kerouac, not Dorothy and not Mandalay, although I guess there is a little “Oz” in the Ruby lights.


Our mobile wet-plate darkroom is “on the road” after a few days fitting out. The main work has been the insulation, light-proofing and getting plenty of efficient ventilation. It is designed for three people to work inside and needs a good light trap, so with the ether, alcohol and other chemistry, fresh air and temperature control is uppermost in my mind.

In summer temperatures reach the the mid 30s centigrade most days, so it would get uncomfortable and affect the chemistry so cooling it is very important.

There is so much to see in Languedoc, I have a list of “projects” I plan to make into a series of portfolios, most of these ideas are within an hours drive from Villa Roquette and look like keeping me busy for several years (I hope).

I took the darkroom van on a short trip today, just outside our village to a spot in the vineyards overlooking Montblanc. I will use this as the first test for a wet-plate next week. But today I just wanted to see that everything stood the test of bumpy farm tracks and steep hills – so far, so good.


I expect to be using the rooftop camera platform a lot, it gives me a great advantage from the roadside for a lot of the landscape work I am planning – the platform is a strong steel grill, which the feet of the tripods fit into perfectly and safely.


Inside I have just fitted work surfaces and plenty of storage – I have ideas about pumping water for washing plates and securing the silver-boxes etc. I will make haste slowly, most importantly I want to get out and get some plates made

Sing in the Light to make a Harmony of Darkness

The more I practise wet-plate (collodion) photography, the more I realise how much has been lost from our culture due to the “convenience” of digital technology.

I have been thinking hard to put into words the reasons I prefer the restrictions and errors, the dust spots and chemical mistakes I have to accept with traditional photography. Why do I avoid the simple manipulations I could use with photoshop to “enhance” an image, decline to scan an image and print with expensive and time consuming chemistry, when for a fraction of the cost and the time I could shoot, modify and print digitally, with high quality inks, to a very high standard – generally cleaner and sharper than is possible with a mechanical camera, on an emulsion of chemistry on plastic or glass (or tin) and printed onto paper (or glass etc) coated with more expensive and fickle chemistry. Or not even make a print – simply send a digital image through the Internet to be seen instantly on any computer screen.

Well, the truth is I do this – here is a tintype I took this week…

5x4 tintype - 18 seconds f4 (ish)

5×4 tintype – 18 seconds f4 (ish)

This was a quick portrait I did of another photographer, it is to be used for the publicity material for an upcoming exhibition If you are reading this then you are seeing a hand-held snap I took of the tintype which was on our dining-room table, lit by a convenient table lamp – I took it with a 4/3 digital camera, so I am happy to use this equipment, there is no other way I would have been able to simply show it on this page (or Facebook or anywhere else).

But you are not looking at the original – you can have no idea of what the original represents. OK, it looks much the same – but it isn’t.

It occurred to me that the difference is, to me, the same as going to a live concert compared to hearing the same sounds on a digital (or even vinyl) player. Live music will probably have crappy acoustics in the venue, musicians will make mistakes and it may be uncomfortable and will certainly be more expensive than listening at home – but which is preferable – for me I would much prefer to hear something I loved at a live performance than to hear it from any recording. Live music has “soul”.

Possibly the most famous, probably the most important and certainly the oldest poetry we know is Homers’ Odyssey and Iliad (or Iliad and Odyssey, whichever way round you prefer) – This was made to be performed live – but – importantly, it was sung, not narrated or quoted, it was sung. It says so at the beginning of the Iliad.

Thanks to the need for companies to continue to make big returns for their shareholders, we are caught in a vortex of consumer evolution which is accelerating the redundancy of “goods” (or should some of this be called “bads”) so the marketing departments can use their skills to create in us a “need” to upgrade our possessions. For sure, but using technological innovation, many things can be made easier to use to get a result. Any digital camera today is much much cheaper to make due to the use of electronics and plastics and it can record and enhance an image very simply and at minimal cost (of the image) – but by not giving the user the need to understand what the hell is happening, the image taken has no need of any form or structure.

The image provided by a digital camera is a convenience and usually a compromise and will come from the programmed enhancements of the computers in the camera, not from the skills and training of the user.

In skilled and artistic hands the digital camera can be used as a tool to make images – David Hockney created with Polaroids, fax machines and now uses an iPad to paint with, he explores and embraces all tools which “enable” him. For me, he is a wonderful artist. So I am not saying that digital technology is in itself bad, but I am saying that a great deal has been lost by replacing the disciplines of traditional photographic procedures and processes with the simplicity of automatic “smart” cameras is a loss. It is a loss of perception and has enabled a tidal-wave of unconsidered images to engulf us.

I want to “sing” my pictures – to do this I have to learn my craft – I also want to make good images, to do this I have to learn to be a poet, a good poet.