Is wet plate photography dangerous? Well, yes, it is

Tips & Techniques

Wet plate photography’s one of those mythical analogue photography processes to most of us. All we know is that some liquid gets poured onto a piece of metal or glass, it goes into a camera, the shutter is fired, magic happens and we get a photo at the end of it. But one person who definitely understands the wet plate process is Markus Hofstätter.

Markus has made it not only his passion but he also shoots wet plate photography for a living. He knows all the ins and outs of it and has made some pretty remarkable images with it. But in this video, he takes some of that fantasy away and shares the reality of working with wet plate and how dangerous it can sometimes be, particularly when it comes to the chemicals used.

The video is packed full of great information on the various chemicals associated with wet plate photography and the problems they can cause if we use them without fully protecting ourselves. And there’s a lot you need to learn before you choose to get started with wet plate photography.

Ether, for example, is an extremely flammable and volatile fluid and can cause explosive vapours to form very easily. Cadmium is a toxic carcinogen and can wreak havoc on your kidneys and respiratory system. And silver nitrate can cause you to become permanently blind and will stain pretty much anything it touches black.

As well as going into the dangers and safety concerns of the different chemicals, Markus also provides some general safety tips for travelling and disposing of your chemicals correctly and legally.

A fantastic video with some great information for those thinking about giving wet plate a go. Markus suggests finding a book on the subject and to do a good wet plate photography workshop before you start investing in the kit yourself. You should ask in advance about the chemicals, what they do and how to dispose of them. And if the person teaching the workshop doesn’t have the answers, find another workshop!

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