A recent acquisition to my personal collection is a wet plate photograph by Barry Schmetter. The wet plate collodion process was introduced in the 1850s. The resulting photographs are quite wonderful with great detail. There are a number of wonderful articles out there with more details on the process so I won’t rewrite them. Find some details here and here. Wet plate chemistry is complex and outside of the usual repertoire of the average darkroom.
The image is of three Vervet monkey skulls. He and I share a background in science, so I was quite excited to see the skulls. They bring me back to memories of my evolutionary biology class. From technique to image content, I’m quite happy with the work.
I received the photograph unframed, and developed several designs including a black-on-black Louis the 14th frame, but in the end I had commitment issues. I called my longtime framer friend Mark at Design Frames in Falls Church, VA, and asked him to give it a shot. He has a tremendous deal where you leave the art, and he picks the design. I may have talked about this before. With anyone else, I could not leave it in their hands, but I know he’ll always develop something tremendous
Mark went above and beyond the call of duty here. There are several layers of mats and spacers, with the wet plate floating. He included leather below the work, suede on the top mat finished with a nice detailed gold frame and museum glass! The frame gives the work a sense of age!
The work resides on a wall with a framed electron micrograph from a retired Georgetown University scientist, and an etching of a dead pigeon from Henrik Sundqvist. I think the 3 images play well together with themes of life and science. More on those works later.