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Beech Forest, Provincetown, MA.

Copyright 2012 Ron Cowie Photo. All rights reserved.

I just returned  from a workshop with  Mark Osterman at The George Eastman House in Rochester, NY. This week, I got to learn the “Collodion Chloride Printing-Out Paper” process. This allows you to contact print black and white negatives and tone them using dilute gold or platinum solutions.  This creates a variety of subtle color tones modern silver paper can’t achieve. The similarity to Centennial POP paper is alarming. This printing process is also one of the most archival (if not THE most archival) silver printing processes invented. The collection at the Eastman House has several examples of prints more than 100 years old which look like they were printed yesterday. The tremendous creative control, the simplicity of the process, and the archival quality of the image makes this process perfect.

Making truly archival silver prints from a digital file, with this amount of control, opens up creative fields that have laid fallow for decades. It is an exciting time to be an image maker. That is the next frontier.

Taking workshops at the Eastman House makes me a better photographer and teacher. Mark teaches some pretty esoteric processes. He is also the master of the wet plate collodion process. This workshop is an extension of that. Access to the photo collection to study photography is like taking a bible study class at the Vatican Library.  Personally examining vintage prints (some of which are truly priceless) involved in the process I’m learning is worth the trip by itself.

Knowing where photography has been allows me to appreciate where it is going. There are plenty of connections between the past and present. Osterman, in partnership and supported by the Eastman House, is uncovering more paths for the creative image-maker to explore. With the interest in vintage processes growing faster than classes can be held, the Eastman House workshop program has enormous potential to shape the conversation and be the center of study for historic processes.

I’ll be using this process in my personal work immediately. With the holidays coming up, I need something fun to get me in the darkroom.

Stay tuned.