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New light on old photo technology
Nowadays when one thinks of a photograph the likely association is a duck-faced selfie taken on an iPhone with no print life beyond an Instagram posting.
For some though, this simply will not do.
Victoria’s Luz Studios is in the business of making the old new and the new old, using seemingly antiquated techniques to add an old-fashioned spin to modern photography.
Through owners Quinton Gordon and Diana Millar’s own work, as well as through workshops run by the couple, the studio strives towards bringing a hands-on relationship back to the process of capturing images.
“It was the frustration of the digital age taking it further and further away from being physically connected to what you’re doing,” Gordon said of the idea behind founding the studio. “There’s muscle memory in all of it. It’s what craftsmanship is, it’s you have to develop a hand and an intuition for it, as well as a technical knowledge.”
One of the main techniques the studio uses is the collodion process, a wet plate photographic process developed in the 1850s and used during the American Civil War. Specifically, the pair work in tintype, a colloidal process which creates a direct positive image on metal.
The process itself is one of speed and precision. The photographer has about 10 to 15 minutes to prepare the plate, take the photograph and develop the image, or else it simply will not work.
Despite the notable clarity and detail of the image, the nature of the process was seen as a major limitation and it fell out of favour when the new, more convenient gelatine dry plate technology came along.
“We’re drawn to the characteristics of photography that originally were seen as its limitations,” Gordon said. “The need to work with that immediacy.”
Millar said the process is also unusual for the person being photographed, in the case of a portrait.
“There’s a slowness in there and you actually get to connect and relax,” Millar said. “There’s that one picture and you can be part of that process almost from start to finish.”
The pair run workshops on a variety of photographic mediums and have run tintype workshops in locations such as schools and a farm in Saanich. They have built portable dark boxes which can be used in the field to develop photos.
Workshops are often geared towards youth, but also adults who are interested in trying their hand at some old time plate and film photography. For some of youth especially, the old technology can be quite a shock.
“One of the boys comes up to me and is like ‘I think broke the camera,’ and it was actually the film rewinding, that sound. He had no idea,” laughed Millar. “We know the excitement we get from making this art, and so the workshops are a great way to filter that down.”
For more information on the studio, memberships for access to darkrooms and workshops visit luzstudios.com.