Wet Plate Collodion Workshop September 2015

Our next wet-plate collodion workshop in the South of France will be on September 26 and 27.

This is a two day residential course at Villa Roquette http://villaroquette.com run by John Brewer – http://johnbrewerphotography.com.

The course includes two days full board accommodation, two days practical hands-on experience, chemistry and literature. The inclusive price is £475 – this includes accommodation for two people so you can come with your partner at no extra cost (this includes the course fees for one person, for lunch and evening meal if required for the second person there is a small supplement).

All equipment is available for students use, including our classic 19th century cameras and lenses up to 24cm x 30cm, full darkroom facilities are in-house and we have a mobile wet-plate darkroom for location work. You can also use our modern studio cameras, even converted Polaroids if you wish.

Low cost flights to Beziers airport (20 minutes and we can pick you up) makes coming to the South of France cheaper than going to London from Manchester.

You don’t have to come only for two days, you can come and stay at Villa Roquette for a long as you like and the darkroom facilities are free to use for all guests – come earlier or stay longer.

As a bonus, we are in the center of the largest wine producing area in the world and the harvest will be finished and the wine festivals will be in full swing in many local villages.

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

The Value of an Image

Stating the ‘value’ of anything is simply a way of placing its desirability in relation to other, similar, items or to establish its usefulness in relation to a situation (a lifebelt to a drowning person for example is very valuable). If photography is used to show images which cause a reaction which helps in any way – the image of the naked, burnt girl in Vietnam, a Mother bathing her child in Japan who was crippled by mercury pollution, a Spanish soldier falling dead – these images are photographs which can be seen on a screen, on a wall or in a magazine and have a high value, they do something.

But to put a price on an image which is a digital presentation on a screen, or a printed version of this is, for me, ridiculous. I have just put some prints into an exhibition locally – a little gallery asked me to let them show a few of my new photographs, so I printed some (on paper and glass) on a theme – there are five other photographers showing. Most of course, use digital equipment, edit this with software and get them printed. They then ask hundreds of euro for these ‘prints’ – how can this ‘value’ be determined – by pressing a button hundreds, thousands of similar prints can be created, to me this is obscene.

I could not give any value to my prints, made in my darkroom. I was happy to show my ideas and what I am doing, but it is over 35 years since I had my last exhibition (where I sold stuff) and I am returning from a twilight zone into the light again after all these years. A digital camera can record an important event and can be used to manipulate light to show a pleasing or a disturbing image, in this case the ‘camera’ operator should be rewarded by society for their perception – but as a digital image is only a lump of binary code, intrinsically it is worth no more than the cost of the print. A crafted piece of paper, or glass, tin – whatever – with an image which shares a feeling or massage is unique – the artist has touched it and put life into it – The Greek philosophers had a word for it arete (ἀρετή) – the best translation is expounded (pun) by Ezra Pound (I love this quote or EP – ”If a patron buys from an artist who needs money (needs money to buy tools, time, food), the patron then makes himself equal to the artist; he is building art into the world; he creates.”) Ifthe artist then shares this – only then can it have true value.

I have stopped looking at any digital images if possible (it isn’t of course) and refuse to digitalise anything I make, so I doubt you will ever see my recent “real” work. There is so much dross overwhelming all media and so many people are using awful apps to make more rubbish ‘(hipstamatic for example).

It is sad – after many years I now refuse to use or own a telephone or watch and limit my keyboard time (or try to) to an hour a day – slowly I am getting free (perhaps).