Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Links: Video Photographer Pedro Meyer Thoughts

Photographer Pedro Meyer on modern art. Well said brother! A wonderful interview! I feel the same way about my photography, and like Mr. Mery have an unemotional connection, indifference to most modern art. He is so right, it is not process but the final image that matters most. If it is digital or wet plate, or whatever, it is the final work, its emotional appeal, that is important, it is all that matters in the end.

An eloquent and important interview. Give it a look see if you have the time.

Oh yes, forgot to mention. "I AM A STORY TELLER!"

YouTube Video: What Does Photographer Pedro Meyer Think?

Here is the artist interview series from Ted Forbes at the Art of Photography site. Check them out, they are great.

Art of Photography: Artist Series Interveiws

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fun With Wet Plate Chenistry

Gosh, this is going to be interesting! Lets go over my adventures today in wet plate chemistry/ First thing I noticed, I needed to think a lot!! In my regular darkroom work which I have been doing for 30 plus years everything flows fluidly and relatively easily Today thou with this new wet plate stuff, confusion rained, could not find tools, found tools, dropped tools, poured in this when I should have poured in that! It when on and on like that all morning.

The main issue of the day came up when I tried to read the PH of my old Bostick and Sullivan silver nitrate bath I figured out and did the specific gravity for the bath right adding some silver to make it 9% but when I checked the PH it said 8.2. What? It is supposed to be around 4 for positive ambrotypes/tintypes. So following my limited training I added some Nitric acid to lower the PH number. But instead of going down it went up! Dazed and confused I continued to add Nitric acid and the number continued to climb. What the f-ck!! In desperation I sent out a call to my new online collodion friends and was told I needed to calibrate the meter. Duh!! I thought it was already set up. With some effort I was able to do that. Then I rechecked my silver nitrate PH which was 2.5....F-CK!!  I ran back to YouTube and dug out a video Borut Penterlin made about boiling your silver bath. In the video he screwed up his bath by adding too much Nitric acid just like I did. His fix was to put in baking soda (make it more alkiline?) to bring up the PH. You then measure the PH and when it is 4 you sun the white gooey mess. When I added the baking soda the PH went back up to 4.2. I now have it sitting outside in a beaker with paper towel to stop the bugs from going swimming. I am hoping the bath will eventually clear as Borut promised. It might take several days to do that.

So that is the bad part. The good is that I made up a second brand new bath of silver nitrate. I was able to use the gravity meter to get a 9% solution. The PH was right around 4 (4.2) which was good. I then made up some vinegar based iron developer, that went well. I am soaking a aluminum plate with collodion on it which you need to do with a fresh silver bath, forget what that is called. I also adapted the Graphic 1234 holder (kinda) to hold a 4x5 aluminum plate.

A confusing day, but a learning day. Lots yet to lean before I start making the 35x35 inch plates! This folks is going to be INTERESTING!

Wet Plate Ghosts Reawaken....BOO!!!!

Well with the encouragement and help of many folks online, especially at the Collodion Bastards facebook page. Many world class photographers have jumped in and helped me.

Today I have re-woken my long dead Bostick and Sullivan wet plate chemistry kit (4 years old?).

I am going to try and do some small 4x5 aluminum plates! Just going to shoot some trees around my home. These chemicals have been sitting in my darkroom cupboard (cool dark place) since I first took a quick dip into wet plate after my Jody Ake workshop in Victoria 5 years ago. Now I return to that world. Eventually the hope is to be doing 35x35 inch ambrotypes all over Canada for the "Kanata". First thou lets try shooting some trees in the back yard! Brick by brick builds the grand cathedral.

I need to help my chemistry along, it has been dormant too long! I sunned and filtered the silver nitrate bath. I will also check the PH and the specific gravity (needs to be 9%). This is the first time I am doing any of this stuff. I learned from online sources and from Quinn Jacobson's wonderful wet plate books. I am also going to mix up fresh developer, I got the Ferrous Sulfate (Iron) I needed for that yesterday. Also have distilled water, white vinegar (for vinegar style developer) and new lab 1000ml glass bottles to use. I hope the old rapid fix is still good. If not I can make up some from my darkrooms Ilford supply.

I also found chemicals I did not know I had! You know you got too much shit when you find 3.8 liters of Glacial Acetic Acid in your cupboard that you did not know was there! I have no idea where I got it, but it was there in a box. I also have a small bottle of Nitric acid (for adjusting the PH in the silver bath) from Bostick and Sullivan that I did not know about. Seems I have more chemistry than I thought. That is what comes of almost 40 years of collecting (since I was 14).

I will also need to adapt a "Graphic Film Pack" I got free a while back for the 4x5 plate.  By the end   of the day I hope to have something to post. Hope hope hope!! Wet plate can be very finicky!

The collodion is 4 years old so who knows what that will be like, probably VERY slow. I am not capable and do not have the chemicals to mix up fresh collodion so I will make do with what I got. There are also a few bottles of unused stuff I bought at some point.

The adventure begins!!! Wish me luck!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Ambrotype: Unknown Woman 2

Have started collecting these mysterious women from the past, all of them are wet plate ambrotype images. This ambrotype is a bit damaged but cheap, and mysteriously cold and indifferent. The cost was $11 USD plus shipping. Who was she? What happened in her life? This portrait was probably made around 1860-1880.

Here is the FaceBook post I wrote about this sames subect:

$11 USD for this damaged ambrotype of a long forgotten life. Picture is probably from around 1860-1880. Who was she? Whatt was her story? She seems harsh, even angry in this photograph. It would be cool to be able to travel back in time and have a conversation with her, learn about her life, learn what she felt, how she thought. This is the second of my collection, will try to get more of these UNKNOWN WOMEN AMBROTYPES in the future. They can travel with me as my forgotten friends when I do the "Kanata" wet plate project. Will have to attach them to the walls of the mobile truck darkroom some how. Maybe with their ghostly, assistance-help I can get that project done!

Unknown woman ambrotype

Video Links: Penticton Art Gallery

Did a search of "Penticton Art Gallery" on YouTube and came up with these fun videos. There are many more on YouTube, go figure! This gallery seems to be very popular and quite a going concern. I am not seeing a lot of photography in these vids, but there certainly are a lot of creative people talking about their art.
Penticton Art Gallery Video 1
Penticton Art Gallery Video 2
Penticton Art Gallery Video 3

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Luther Gerlach's Current Wet Plate Darkroom Vehicle

Was communicating with the great wet plate photographer Luther Gerlach on facebook last night. I guess he also owns a Nikkor Apo 1780mm F14 lens. Luther forwarded this photo of his current vehicle wet plate darkroom to the discussion message board, he can make up to 5x7 foot plates in it. In a series of posts Luther shared with me and others he told us this is the 4th such vehicle he has used. You can see one of the earlier vehilces in my all time favourite YouTube video about the making of a mammoth wet plate photograph of the "Three Graces". I have watched that video a couple of dozen times (link below).

Luther Gerlach's current wet plate darkroom-camera truck
"Three Graces" Photographed By Luther Gerlach

Facebook Post: Possible Exhibition-The Cost Of Dreams

Possible Exhibition

Got news of a last minute possible show for "Families of the Dump" Hope it works out, this might be the largest and nicest gallery I have shown in, The Penticton Art Gallery. Not sure it is going to work thou as my Thai trip might be in way. That is what happens when you take long trips (6 months), you see lots of stuff there, and miss lots of stuff here! I have spent about 3 years of my life in Asia, that was great but I missed 3 years of my life here in Canada. I would really like to have 3 more years with my father, who died Feb 22, 2015. Pursuing your dreams always come at costs.

Great News, Possible New Exhibition At The "Penticton Art Gallery"

I might be getting a smallish group of "Families of the Dump" photographs exhibited at the Penticton Art Gallery. I was contacted today by the galleries director-curator about a possible exhibition between Sept-November this year. The problem of course is that I leave for Thailand mid October. How to fit the show in? I asked for a delayed exhibition, until after my return from Asia in April 2018 or a possible earlier date of September 2017 but am unsure how that would work time wise. I will have to drive down the framed prints to Penticton British Columbia (a different province!) and pick them up before I leave Canada.

I hope we can work this out some how, some way. The Penticton Art Gallery is a very beautiful space and the stories of the "Famlies of the Dump" so important!  The stories of the lives of the people in the Mae Sot dump, need to be told, they have to be told!! I cannot fail them again, it is my responsibility to get their images seen. Even a small show at such a prestigious gallery would be such a lucky gift for me and the families. I really hope we can get this done.

Here is part of the polite email I received, and some shots of the wonderful gallery.

Update* Just thought of something. If I do get a show at the Penticton Art Gallery in September  before I leave for Thai and it does pay an artist fee. I could then donate more to the families than the $1401.34 so far raised. Maybe I should try to get this done before I leave, not after I return.
Update** I wonder how many photographs in a SMALLISH intial solo (?) exhibition.
Hi Gerry;

Sorry for the delay in writing life has a funny way of usurping things and I have been long hoping to reach out to see if we could do a smallish initial exhibition of your photos and documentary here at the Penticton Art Gallery this September - Early November. Let me know if this is possible and again I am sorry for the delay and hope we can make it work on short notice.



The beautiful Penticton Art Gallery, some past exhibitions.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Amazing Facebook Days

Wow, getting to love facebook. I am having one on one talks with some of the best wet platers in the world because of facebook. In the last several days I have contacted and spoken via messaging with Quinn Jacobson, Luther Gerlach, Borut Peterlin and Kurt Moser. A great way to learn, the masters of wet plate answering all ,uy questions and teaching me 1 on 1! Now just got to meet these fellows in real life and take some workshops with them.

Quinn Jacobson Teaching On The Studio Q Show
Unpixelated: Luther Gerlach Makes Photographs Like It's 1851
The Wonderful Entertaining And Educational Borurt Peterlin At Work
Kurt Moser Putting Together His 20x24 Camera

Bought Me A Used "Ohaus CS 2000" Series Portable Digital Scale | Capacity 2000g x 1g | Tested!

Picked me up a good used (tested) reliable portable scale today for $35 USD plus cheaper shipping costs. This scale is recommended in Quinn Jacobson's wet plate book "Chemical Pictures". Quinn is one of the king's of teaching wet plate and this is the scale he uses. If it is good enough for Quinn, then it is good certainly good enough for me! I like the fact this scale is small, accurate and runs on batteries. I can take it from my home darkroom to my mobile truck darkroom and use it quite easily in both places.

My New/Used Ohaus CS 2000" Series Portable Digital Scale

Friday, July 14, 2017

My Nikkor 1780mm Apo Process Lens Is HERE!!!

After much trial and tribulation with Fed Ex my beautiful old but new to me 1780mm Nikkor Apo F14 process lens arrived today. I plan on using it (assuming I can attach this 18 lb monster to my HF 35x35 camera) for my retirement 10 year ambrotype project "KANATA" a documentation and interpretation of my country Canada (portraits, landscapes and seascapes). I have the lens at work tonight and am cleaning it up, it is very dusty, probably been sitting in a closet in California for years.
Here she is, ain't she "BEAUTIFUL!" I have been told there might only be 5-7 of these currently being used in the world . The rest of these large, wonderful lens (up to 200 originally made)  were destroyed (what a terrible waste), damaged , or are simply forgotten, hidden away in dark closets.

My Nikkor 1780mm F14 Apo Process Lens

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Quote: Betty Davis

"I'm the nicest goddamn dame that ever lived."

Speaking about the death of long-time nemesis Joan Crawford.

"You should never say bad things about the dead, you should only say good . . . Joan Crawford is dead. Good."

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

"Healing Process" Invites Have Arrived

I got a packet of 50 (I could have gotten 100 if I wanted)) invites for my upcoming "Healing Process" show a couple of days back. The Art Gallery of St. Albert really does a first class job in presentation and the extras. This is the highest level gallery I have ever been a part of. A first exhibition, a studio visit, media converage/promotion, artist talk, invites etc. It has been first class all the way.

They gallery also sends out postal invitations. I invited a few friends this old fashion way and also sent out cards to many of the big wigs and lesser wigs at the Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA), the Edmonton Journal, the Edmonton Arts Council (EAC), the Art Foundation of Alberta (AFA) etc. Not sure how many if any of these folks will attend the exhibition but at least I tried to get them to come. That is the best I can do. If they ignore the exhibition and the invitation, so be it.

Here is a look at some of the nice professionally printed invitation notices I received. I will place one in my darkroom, another collected exhibition item, my walls are starting to fill up with these things.

"Healing Process" Art Gallery of St. Albert invites

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Quotes: Sammy Davis Jr.

"Being a star has made it possible for me to get insulted in places where the average Negro could never hope to get insulted."

"You have to be able to look back at your own life and say, "Yeah, that was fun." The only person I ever hurt was myself and even that I did to the minimum. If you can do that and you're still functioning, you're the luckiest person in the world."

After once hearing someone complain about discrimination,  he said,

"You got it easy. I'm a short, ugly, one-eyed, black Jew. What do you think it's like for me?" 

Lab Boy, Lives His Dream

Well my child dream of playing in a laboratory is finally coming forth. When I was younger I always wanted to have my own laborartory so I could play with all the chemicals, beakers, test tubes and the like. My father would occasionally give me some little lab tool for me (not sure what happened to all that stuff). Now after all these yars I am going to do the lab thing for real. Wet plate has opened up the exciting if somewhat dangerous laboratory door for me. I have started collecting, beakers, flasks, ring stands etc for my future in making wet plate chemistry (silver bath, developer and collodion). Most of this stuff is second hand gear but heck it works for me!

Note* Also picked me up a portable digital scale and 3 more 5000ml bottles. These last 3 bottles were a fraction of the cost of the first one I bought ( both bottles are shown below). They are used, American glass costing $20 USD each plus shiping.  I now hav 4-5000ml glass bottles to store my Silver Nitrate baths in when I go on the road long term. I will probably make up 20000ml of Silver bath solution before leaving on my longer "KANATA" project trips. Silver bath is difficult and funky to deal with, having a back up bath is probably a good idea. I do not want to be stranded up in the North West Territories with a 35x35 camera and no functioning silver nitrate!

Various sized flasks
Various sized beakers
Laboratory ring stand
Ring clamps
Expensive 5000ml glass media bottle for Silver Nitrate bath
3x $20 5000ml glass media bottle for Silver Niterate bath

Monday, July 10, 2017

Triptych Ambrotypes For "KANATA"??

I have become inspired by a  an Australian photographer Craig Tuffin who works in wet plate. Maybe I can do up some ambrotype triptych as part of my "KANATA" land-seascape series. I also like the way the images will be displayed. The black framing seperates but also unites the work.

Landscape Ambrotype Triptych by Craig Tuffin

Bottles Bottles And More Bottles, Corning Pyrex Plus PVC-Coated 2000ml 2L Glass Media Bottle, 61626-2L, 4/pk

When you work with wet plate chemistry, laboratory grade media bottles is what you want to store your expensive chemicals in. A while back I bought a box of 1000ml bottles from Amazon but I also need bottles for the storage of Silver Nitrate as well as bottles for developer (if I pre-mix the developer), collodion (lots of bottles for longer trips) and varnish.

I am going to try to use these lab media bottles for most wet plate chemicals as I will be travelling with them on the road, in the back of a bouncing-banging truck. The stronger the bottles the better! Here are today's bottle purchases, got these used, still in good condition but the shipping costs on big heavy items like this is quite high. I will probably end up buying some 5000 ml bottles (for the Silver Nitrate bath), some 500ml bottles and possibly some 250ml bottles.

Update:* I picked up 10-500ml new glass media bottles from Amazon for $114.48 CAD with free shipping. I now only need some 5000ml bottles (2-4) and I should be set.

Update** I picked up  2 more 2000ml new glass medial bottles from another USA seller. I now have a total of 6. I can use them for Silver Baths early on in my wet plate learning curve and later when I go to mammoth I will use them to hold Collodion on the longer 3-4 month shooting trips. 6-2000ml bottles should be plenty! I hope!

2000ml Corning Pyrex Plus PVC-Coated Glasss Media Bottles, 4 pack $125 USD plus shipping

Photo Idea: The Life Of A Ladyboy Sex Worker

Tonight as I was bleaching and toning my 7th dad print for "Healing Process" I started to lovingly look at the grain on my fathers hospital portrait. I miss my dad so much, it was nice to be with him up close like this. As I looked at the grain, studied the grain and its beauty came forth. I never really understood the wonder, the awe photographer Sebastiao Salgado felt for his grain until now. Grain is so earthy, so real, it is true, it is the wonder of photography, it is life!!

35mm Tri-x combined with ultra sharp Leica lens and bleaching can create such a wonderfully unique and exciting pictures. Going forward what could I photograph with this grain-35mm technique? What about ladyboy sex workers? How? In what way??

Should I got back to photographing sex workers again? I was much happier in the world of dumps and slums, The people in those poverty stricken environments are so much easier to get along with, so much kinder, so much more friendly, so much more generous. My thoughts of a return to sex worker pictures started after reading an essay (linked below). Many of the earlier goals I set for myself before making the sex worker pics, many of the hopes that those photos had for me were realized, they were felt by this Harvard student writer. I had reached her, my thoughts had become her thoughts. Was I wrong to stop making them? By abandoning the sex worker portraits was I missing the chance to tell these stories to a larger audience? Maybe it was my destiny to tell these  kind of stories, stories so few others wanted to tell. Could grit my teeth and enter that world once again?

Here is the essay:

How to return to that world? What photographs to make? I initially thought of doing a series of 4x5 shallow depth of field head shot portraits of bar workers (still might do that, here is a sample of that look)

Now I am also thinking of a new project. Befriending and documenting the life of  ladyboy freelance street sex worker in Bangkok or Pattaya. The project might be called " Ladyboy Sex Worker", "Katoye" (Thai word for Gay), "Ladyboy" (Politer Term) or simply the name of my subject? " Jiji", "Betty","Suzie" (ladyboy's seem to often have an iii on the end of their name. Not sure what the deal with that is).

I have had many transgender acquaintances, some of these relationships might even be called almost friendships. I have never thou had a true close friend who was a ladyboy or documented her life in a deep background personal sort of way. Where she lives, her family, her friends, her customers, her thoughts, hopes and dreams, her life!

That is the idea for this project. To tell that story, the whole story of a single ladyboy freelance sex worker struggling to survive, her feelings, her thoughts, what makes her-her. I so often see discrimination and hatred of transgender people. Why? Live and let live, we all are human being first, the rest is just window dressing. Who cares about race, gender. religion. Human beings is what we are!! That is all that matters. I would want my proposed essay to tell the story of a  HUMAN BEING. Maybe if the pictures are good enough, I can open and change a few conflicted viewers minds for the better. :)

More thought needed on this, I have 3 more months and a bit before Thailand.

More* I might have to shoot parts of this series (if it happens) in digital which would allow me to shoot at 10000 ASA and maybe a bit faster in very low light situations. I think thou for the most part, I would do it in Tri-x 35mm for the grain.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Facebook Post: Learning Chemistry For Wet Plate Work

Gosh...joined a wonderful new facebook group..COLLODION BASTARDS...learning tons of chemistry stuff i(should have paid attention more in chemistry 10, 20). I will have to learn how to mix my own collodion, developer and silver bath. The bath for my mammoth ambrotypes (glass images) will probably be over $2000 maybe even $3000 because of the cost of silver nitrate. Here is an online tutorial on mixing collodion. Imagine doing this on the road all over Canada and then making 35x35 inch ambrotypes, this will be quite the adventure!!! Really looking forward to it, 6 months in Thai first thou.
Mixing Poe Boy Collodion

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Bought Me A Cheap 600mm Nikkor Apo Process Lens

Bought me a reasonable condition 600mm Nikkor Apo F9 lens for the low low price of $130 USD plus shipping from Thailand.  According to Kurt M this lens might be able to be used with my 35x35 camera. He does use the newer 610mm NIkkor Apo with his cameras (20x24, 35x35). That lens sells on eBay for $600+ USD. If I do cannot use the older 600mm version with the 35x35 format, I should be able to use it with when I attach the 20x24 reducing back (which I will  buy separately).

Kurt's Lens Choices For His Amazing ULF Mammoth Wet Plate Work

I think this is a fate lens as initially it was won by another person who did not pay  (I was out bid at $177 USD).  I waited out a second  auction at $150 USD and then made my offer of  $130 to the Thai seller who accepted. This lens seemed destined to be owned by me. It should be interesting to see what images will result, what ambrotypes will be created with this old but classic piece of glass. The Nikkor 600s connection to Thailand and my long relationship to that country is also fate like!

As I get older I am starting to believe in words like, FATE, DESTINY and KARMA more! I hope I have some good luck with my new Nikkor Apo 600mm F9. Thailand, Fate Lens.

Nikkor Apo 600mm F9, process lens with flange

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Prinzdorff Boards Are Here

I got my Prinzdorff (4x5, 5x7 camera) lens boards today sent to me from the states by Zbyszek. They look so nice, very well made, fit perfectly. Zbyszek also repaired the original sample board that I sent to him. I now have 4 boards with copal 0 size hole and 2 with a copal 1 size hole. More than enough boards for the life of the Prinzdorff camera.

I plan on my return to Canada to send him my Korona board and have multiple boards made for that camera as well which will allow me to use it for 4x5 and 5x7 wet plate work. Those Korona boards will have various types of brass lens attached, including some beauty Petzvals from the late 1800s

Here is what the beauty Prinzdorff boards look like:

Prinzdorff lens boards

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Online Message: Another Possible Donation For The "Families" In The Dump

I have another possible donation person for the "Families of the Dump"series/project. This newly met friend wrote me a very kind email tonight, asking about possibly donating. We were communicating and exchanging thoughts on photography, and I told him more and more about the "Family" story, and sent pics, the dump history link etc.  Here is his beautiful message minus his name to protect his privacy.

The world needs more people like this, willing to help others.
Hi Gerry,


I find that as I get older (I'm 56), I'm becoming quite a 'softie'. I tear up easier than I used to, and am moved more easily. I have not watched all the videos yet, but several of them. You are doing amazing, wonderful work! I would have been moved by all I've read and seen at any time in my life.

I would love to be able to give all the people in the world the ability to live lives as filled with happiness, safety, and hope as all of us deserve, but I know I cannot. Heck, I can barely pay my own bills, and have too much back pain to even do the work I'm accustomed to around our home. Watching the people in the dump is amazing for a bunch of reasons, but one is because it re-assures me. Amidst all they are going through, there is obvious joy and love. The smiles and laughter are lovely to see. I expected it from the kids, since kids are so resilient, and they adapt to wherever they are. If all they've known is the dump, they'll find a way to satisfy their need for exploration and play. But even the adults have grins on their faces in many of your photos, and I see pride too, and curiosity, and friendliness, and humor. I cannot take away all the suffering, but people are strong, and families love each other everywhere. It's a joy to see.

I feel odd writing that, because I think I can grasp how little these people have, but you've captured something of their spirit and goodness.

How lucky you are to have found this place that you can be accepted in, and that you can truly help! Your images are changing the world. Thanks for sharing it with all of us.

How can I donate?


Upate* My new online friend made his donation, the "Families of the Dump" donation number now sits at  $1401.34 CAD. Thanks so much.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Repost: Large Format Photography Post: Wet Plate Photo Advice

I have been communicating with numerous people (probably more than 15) on the free Large Format Photography site.

I have been learning lots of things from many experienced Large Format folk. The people on the site helped link me to both ULF lens I bought recently, the 180cm F 15 Brass Zeiss Tessar and the recent 1780mm Nikkor Apo F14.

Here is an exchange with a large format forum member and fellow wet plater G-------.
 G---------- WROTE:

I've found it's sometimes easier to get super rare lenses because there is little knowledge of them so low demand.  When everyone was chasing Pinkham and Smiths, I looked for other, more uncommon soft focus lenses.  Same with Petzvals, when everyone chased Dallmeyers B models, I just found the others that were just as good.  I suppose enough people need Ultra Long lenses that those do have demand, otherwise they would be quite cheap.

Quinn is great, he basically started the wetplate craze in Europe that we are now seeing grow and grow.  Kind of like Coffer started it in America about 5 years before that.  I helped Quinn one year shoot wetplate at a French photo fair.  He was quite a wetplate celebrity and the booth we ran had a line of people wanting their plates made, all weekend. 

It takes a while to get good results with wetplate, but it goes faster if you learn, hands on, from a pro.  Too many hacks try to impress by "the old fashioned" nature without any real skill in technique or composition or lighting.  I've seen a lot of very poor novice wetplater work over the years, where the vision of "doing it the old way" cannot save what are very bad plates. 

With your LF background you are many steps ahead of the casual person who decides to start doing wetplate, and tries to learn by just reading a few facebook groups.  I saw you were also going to start on small plates, that's always a good plan.  I shot half plates every day or two for about 6 months when I was learning, and never went to large plates until I could get a good result on a 4x5 size.  Remember, 98% of the old Ambrotypes and Tintypes were quarterplate (3 1/4 X 4 1/4) or smaller, in the 1870s.  Even Brady and Gardner shot fairly small plates, smaller than 8x10.  Yet their quality is seldom met today.  You can shoot a hundred smaller plates with the same amount of chemistry that will be exhausted by 10 Mammoths. 

Luther Gerlach is another collodion artist that has done mammoth plates for a long time.  You might want to connect with him too.  An example:

Photograph by great mammoth wet plate phtoogher Luther Gerlach
My Reply to G-------------:

Thanks very much for the long, detailed and informative post G--------------. I have sent emails to most of the big wet plate boys asking for help, workshops etc., including Luther Gerlach. His 3 graces video was a major influence in me wanting to eventually go mammoth.

"doing it the old way" Yes I feel your right here. Many times the process seems to overcome the images. Who cares what techniques you use if the photos suck. It always has to be the images first, the methods used while important should be secondary. I often see wet plate guys, dressing up in costumes and speaking endlessly about Archer and all the tech steps, but then in the end making boring, rather meaningless images. I love the look of wet plate photos, especially the feel of 3D ambrotypes, but the work, the work I hope to do has to have more value than that. If I cannot make strong images regardless of the process, then why bother? Great art should move us on an instinctual personal level, the rest of the stuff, lens, cameras, process, method, arty farty talk is all window dressing. Put the image on the wall and let it SPEAK for itself, nothing else matters.

Beautiful image by Luther G....I would love to take a workshop with him also. Will try connecting with him again, the last time round I only got to an assistant who relayed me Luther's thoughts. His work like I said earlier was an inspiration. I hope to go to Northern Canada and do landscapes and sea/lake scapes of similar quality. There is such a timeless beauty to these type of works. I was hoping also to do major portrait work (maybe not with the 35x35 but with the 16x20 Chamonix), probably with a flash set up, not sure on that yet. Much of this projects ideas evolve and change on a daily basis.

I shot half plates every day or two for about 6 months when I was learning, and never went to large plates until I could get a good result on a 4x5 size. Remember, 98% of the old Ambrotypes and Tintypes were quarterplate (3 1/4 X 4 1/4) or smaller, in the 1870s. Even Brady and Gardner shot fairly small plates, smaller than 8x10. Yet their quality is seldom met today. You can shoot a hundred smaller plates with the same amount of chemistry that will be exhausted by 10 Mammoths.

This is very solid advice. When I took my one wet plate workshop (I also have an old Bostick and Sullivan kit) I was doing it on 4x5 plates. I have a number of blank black 4x5 and 8x10 plates in my darkroom. For the first 6 months, maybe a year I will concentrate on shooting that format size, before moving up. When you make mistakes, it is so much less painful when it costs less money! I plan on making LOTS AND LOTS of mistakes!!

Thanks so much for your email G-------------, I will post some work in the coming years. I hope you can help me become a better wetplater as I climb that steep hill.

"Families of the Dump" History Repost

It seems that many times people I know ask me about my project "Families of the Dump" or I start to talk to them about it and want to have one link that I can send to them explaining the series. Today I decided to create one longer post, actually a re post of multiple old blogs.

I can now send this one long winded blog link to those that are interested,

To start if off here is an attempt at some poetry...written around

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Children Of The Dump
Flies buzzing in the sunshine
      Garbage and long toil
Giggles with quick laughter
     Playing with barking dogs
Broken glass and sweet hugs
    Found food but lost school
Stomach worms and stinking waste
    Rats running with the rice
Yet new hope and new life
    Children of the dump.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"Children of the Dump" Artist Statement, Why I Made The Photos

Spent part of my night shift tonight trying to work on an artist statement for the upcoming "Children of the Dump" exhibition. I hate writing these things as the author usually ends up sounding like a pretentious , pompous ass. I will probably be revising this a lot before I use it in the show, heck I might not even use it but I thought I would share it none the less. I have always felt a simple non arty farty art speak statement was the best way to go. So here is a simple if rather long winded reasoning behind why I made these photographs. I tried to keep the artspeak talk to a minimum.
The "Families of the Dump" and this smaller "Children of the Dump" documentary photograph series was made at the Mae Sot Thailand garbage dump where around 400 people in 50 plus families live and work. The families are made up of Burmese refugees mostly from the Karen ethnic group, they illegally travelled from Burma into Thailand to scavenge and work in the Mae Sot dump digging for recyclable goods. All able bodied members of the family work, from the very young to the very old. There is a school nearby for the children but often they are required to work and cannot go to school.

Why make the photographs for the "Children of the Dump" series? It all came down to that first day I visited the dump, that first day, what I saw, the experiences I had locked me into this project. Here is a rather long winded story about that day and a bit of what happened before and after.

My first day at the dump was in May of 2013, I was unsure what to expect. Over the years and 11 previous trips I had become fairly comfortable in Thailand, I could speak some of the language I could even read and write a bit in Thai but this was something new, something different. I was worried and a bit apprehensive about how this all would play out. The dump was populated not by Thais but by Burmese, people who were refugees, illegals inside Thailand who were escaping political persecution and or economic hardships in their own country of Burma. My knowledge of the Thai language and experiences photographing Thais in the slums of Bangkok or the beer bars of Pattaya would be of little value.

To get to the dump I first had to fly from Canada, 3 airplanes and 24 hours later I was in my hotel in Bangkok. I then arranged a bus ticket for the overnight 10 hour trip from Bangkok to Mae Sot Thailand. Mae Sot is a town that is 70% Burmese even thou it is inside Thailand, it snuggles up along the Moei river which separates Thailand and Burma. Burmese workers can  easily cross the Moei river to work inside Thailand legally or illegally. There is a lot of human, drug and gem smuggling along this border area and a corresponding large police and military presence.

On arrival in Mae Sot I was spent, exhausted and still recovering from jet lag. I checked into my second hotel and went in search of food. I had no idea how to get to the dump or exactly what I would find but I figured I would ask a motorcycle taxi driver. The one thing you can always be sure of no matter where you visit is that taxi drivers know where stuff is. My Thai language skills came in handy as I was able to communicate my intentions and to arrange for a pickup early next morning. The deal was that the driver would pick me up at my hotel and take me out to dump at 8am for 60baht ($2.00 CAD).

The next morning after a rough night’s sleep I was up at 715am, had a quick shower, a jam sandwich and some water. After putting on a ton of sunblock and gathering up my photo gear I was ready to go. I met Khune Noi (the driver) out in front of my $20 a night hotel and off we went me on the back of the motorbike him driving. We drove through the dark streets passing the occasional orange robed Buddhist monk or groups of monks walking barefoot in search of their morning alms (collecting donated food). After about 30 minutes of winding, dusty, bumpy, pot holed roads, we approached the dump entrance. We wound around a green water lake, I could smell the garbage and see the small shacked family homes in the distance. It took another slow 5 minutes of driving and finally we arrived, Khune Noi stopped the bike I clamored off and readjusted my cameras. He then handed me the bag I had given him earlier. The bag contained some rice, canned fish and soap. My plan was that every day I came to the dump I would give out a gift bag to one of the families. I asked Khune Noi to return at 12 noon to take me home, he smiled and left.

So there I was standing on the road next to the green lake in the early morning light. The numerous bamboo-wood-plastic covered huts extended down the road on my left, there must have been 15 or more with the lake on my right. Some of the families peered out at me others went on with their morning chores showing little concern. I went up to the first house and gave the bag of rice to the lady sitting in the entrance. I did my best to say "rice"in Burmese as I  handed it to her, she smiled waied me (put her hands together as if in prayer) and said thank you in Burmese.

Now that I had gotten rid of the extra baggage I wanted to make some pictures. I started to wander slowly, the sun had risen and it was already becoming quite hot. I tried to be as polite and unobtrusive as I could, approaching the homes and quietly taking a few photographs. When people would look at me, I would hold up the camera asking if it was OK to photograph. Sometimes I just smiled and said "minga lah bah" hello in Burmese. When I was done I would say "zah zue din bah day" thank you. After 45-60 minutes of this wandering I came across a young boy holding a sickle like tool that was used for digging in the dump. I shot some photographs of him and then he turned and headed towards the nearby dump, he walked quickly down a small path. I made several photos of him as he walked in front of me, he got farther and farther ahead as I struggled through the mounting garbage. He soon was out of range of my camera.

Young boy walking into the dump my first day shooting, May 2013
I looked for another subject, off in the distance maybe 300 meters ahead I saw a figure with a white hat working. By this time it was quite hot, the sunlight was very bright and reflected off all the white bags on the ground, all that light being bounced back up into my face made it hard on the eyes. I decided to head to the worker with the hat and see what that would yield. I started off, often my feet sank deep into the garbage, I tried to avoid the more smelly messy areas, there were hills and hills of waste, far into the horizon. As I walked the flies came, I had never seen or experienced so many flies before. They were all over me, on my hands, arms, face, nose, eyes, ears, they moved on my fingers, on my camera and on my lens. I continued to walk, there was no wind, the flies buzzed my ears, crawled on my face, the smell of the rotting garbage grew stronger, the now incredible heat got worse. All I could think about was these blasted flies. I started to get very uncomfortable, sweat ran down my face into my eyes, the sunblock stung my eyes, the flies continued buzzing and crawling all over me. They climbed everywhere, first on the garbage, then on me, if I breathed through my mouth they would fly inside my mouth and I had to spit them out. This all seemed crazy! Why was I here? Why was I doing this? These bloody disgusting flies! I counted them, there were now 40 walking or sitting on the parts of my body that I could see. I started to freak out a bit, started to feel more and more disturbed by it all. There was nowhere to go, I was trapped, damn it was so hot! Finally I reached the figure with the white hat.

I looked at the worker, it was a man, no a woman, no not a woman it was a girl, a young girl, maybe 11 years old, I found out later her name was Doo-Aye. She looked at me with interest and curiosity as children do and smiled. I stopped and photographed her, her father was nearby but was involved in his own scavenging and paid me no mind. Doo-Aye had on the simple white hat I had seen earlier and had thanaka on her face. Thanaka is a white paste made from tree bark, the Burmese wear it as a sunscreen and also as a cosmetic for beauty. She worked and dug in the garbage alongside her father, they were filling up a big bag with anything worth salvaging, mostly plastics and cardboard. Then Doo-Aye found a ladies purse, something some Thai women in Mae Sot had thrown away. She looked through every part of it hoping to find anything of value, she searched all the corners, all the compartments pulling stuff out and letting it fall on the ground. I continued to photograph her and made a short video with my digital camera as she worked. Every now and then she looked up at me with curiosity and smiled. I asked myself "Why was this child working like this?"

Doo-Aye was the key to my wanting to do this series of photographs in the dump. She was the reason I wanted to tell the story of these forgotten families and these poverty stricken children. Once I saw her eyes, the friendliness of her smile and the quiet acceptance of the hard ugly work she was doing, I was hooked. She had a grace, a vulnerability, a joy for life to her that seemed so contradictory to the circumstances she lived in. This little girl should have been in school with opportunities for a greater future, instead she was here in this garbage, in this heat, with these bloody flies. Seeing her woke me up, here was this child, an 11 year old person living this way and trying to help her family. What the f-ck was I whining about? What were a few flies, a little bit of short time discomfort compared to Doo-Aye's past, present and future lives. I had to make pictures here, I had to tell others what I saw, I had to try to educate and inform through the photographs and my blog.

Doo-Aye surrounded by garbage, my first day in the dump May 2013
After that first day I was hooked, I went every day for the next week making pictures from 7am till 12 noon, I even got used to those blasted disgusting flies. I met other hard working families, who allowed me to photograph them and showed me their children with pride. Some of the women from the families got on me for not wearing a hat, they motioned up at the the sun, said the word "hot" in Burmese then pointed at their hat and my bare head. They shook their heads at me and frowned. This happened numerous times, it was sort of like having a Burmese mother or sister, someone watching over me. The more time I spend in the dump the more I became involved in the lives of the individuals. These people were living in absolute poverty but they had a beautiful dignity to them. I had shot photos for 8 days in a row, I made photographs until I ran out of film. Now I had to leave, it was time to return to Bangkok and then Canada, security work awaited (I work as a security guard).

In November of 2013 I returned to Mae Sot to make photos for another 6 days. My first morning back  there were shouts of "Minga Lah Bah!!!" directed  at me from 5 or 6 different people, it was a happy return, I felt part of a family. I wore a hat this time round and one of the men looked at me, pointed at my hat then gave me a thumbs up and a big smile. This second trip I made pictures and gave them as gifts, I started donating more and more food bags, some mornings carrying 3 heavy bags in along with all my photo gear. I eventually donated money to the local Burmese school, a school where the teachers worked as volunteers. The little bit I gave was not much for me but so important to the lives of the people living in the dump. Being part of those lives for a short time enriched me in so many different ways. It is hard to describe my feeling about the dump, in one sense it’s a terrible place but because of the people it is also sometimes beautiful.

As I left Mae Sot and the "Families of the Dump" for a second time I thought about our different lives, the differences fate had bestowed on us. I could run away from the dump, my Canadian passport and money meant I could leave and return to my privileged life in Canada. The families working the dump could not leave, they had nowhere to go and little hope of a brighter future. Now today as I write these words in my comfortable clean guard shack on my nice new computer Doo-Aye continues to live and work in the dump with the flies, cockroaches and rats. What will her future be? Will she find happiness? A loving husband? Children of her own?  Will her children be allowed a better life?

I am unable to return to the Mae Sot in 2014 but I will return in 2015. I will go back to continue photographing Doo-Aye her family and the other "Families of the Dump", their stories need to be told.

The attached link is to the "Eyes to Burma" charity, it is run by Mr. Fred Stockwell, he does good work helping the Burmese families living in the Mae Sot garbage dump. If you can please make a donation to his organization.

Thanks Gerry
Monday, December 30, 2013  

November Trip Scans 4

The rest of the photos in this blog are a continuation of the "Families of the Dump" series (might change that name yet!).
   Young boy working in the dump 2 "Families of the Dump" Series, Thailand 2013
Young boy walking in the dump 1"Families of the Dump" Series, Thailand 2013
Young boy working in the dump  3 "Families of the Dump" Series, Thailand 2013
Dump dogs 2 "Families of the Dump Series, Thailand 2013
Child and mother  "Families of the Dump Series, Thailand 2013
Boy with bicycle 1 "Families of the Dump Series, Thailand 2013 
Recycling food at the dump 1 "Families of the Dump Series, Thailand 2013
Working families in the dump "Families of the Dump Series, Thailand 2013

Saturday, February 15, 2014

November Trip Scans 15
"Families of the dump" Series, Thailand 2013
"Families of the dump" Series, Thailand 2013
"Families of the dump" Series, Thailand 2013
"Families of the dump" Series, Thailand 2013
"Families of the dump" Series, Thailand 2013
"Families of the dump" Series, Thailand 2013
"Families of the dump" Series, Thailand 2013
"Families of the dump" Series, Thailand 2013
"Families of the dump" Series, Thailand 2013
"Families of the dump" Series, Thailand 2013

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Am Speechless!!

A while back in October 2015 before I did my last trip to Thai and the "Families of the Dump" I sent a general email out to the people who work at my plant site in Edmonton, Canada. I work security nights at this plant and have been here close to 20 years. In that email I asked for some spare contactor hats. If the people had them could they please drop them off at security and I would take them to Thailand to Mae Sot and donate them to the families working the dump. I attached a few of my black and white documentary photos of the families in the dump from 2013. The email was a big hit and I ended up getting a ton of stuff.

- 5 pairs of used but good condtion steel toe rubber boots
- 120+ hats
- $480 in cash donations from 3 different people ( I had not asked for money they just gave it on their own!)

After I returned to Canada I sent another email out plant wide with photos and stories so everyone could see how the money was used. I wanted to show them the good they had done, I sent out pics of children in the dump wearing the plants hats, people holding bags with rubber boots etc. I also sent photos of the big donation at the local dump school and at the Mae La refugee camp. It was a win win thing for everyone involved, especially the families/children living in the dump.

So now lets fast forward to today. Last week just before I went on my week off I sent an email to one of the managers here on site. Earlier he had asked me to tell him when I was going back to Mae Sot again he wrote "I will get a few goodies together". I thought great he will put some t-shirts, some hats and the like in a bag for me and I can give those away when I return to the dump. Last week I sent him an email with the new details and the day I was leaving back to Thai.

Today I returned to work after my week off and checked my mail, this is what I found. This email was sent out to the entire plant.

G---- ------ is heading back to Mae Sot Thailand and the families in the dump on March -- th. He is planning on taking another 50 or so hats and some rubber boots etc.

I would like to do a little fund raiser on site. I am calling it "Hot Dogs for Hats". Maintenance will be cooking some hot dogs (with chilli etc.) for lunch on March 17th,  $5 for a hot dog or 3 for $10 with the proceeds going to buy hats, boots and maybe a few dollars for Gerald to by some goodies for the kids etc.

Please accept this invitation if you would like to buy a hot dog!

I was shocked. I am rather a private guy so having an email sent out plant wide using my name was a bit unnerving but gosh this is going to be wonderful, a fricking fundraiser! I have no idea how much money will be raised, I have no idea what to make of any of this, I know it is a good thing, maybe a great thing. Need time to digest this all, think it over. I will use the money in the best ways possible to help as many people as I can.

Who says that documentary photography cannot make a positive difference in peoples lives!! This all started with me wanting to make pictures in the dump after seeing a CNN story. Those intial photos I made in 2013, did have an impact, they did matter, they are making a difference. Step by step this has all lead to a small but positive change in the lives of many people, the"Families of the Dump". Not sure how much donation money will come out of this, but you got to love it!

"Ain't Photography Grand!!"

3 children in the dump, Mae Sot Thailand 2013
Self portrait with dump kids #1, Mae Sot Thailand 2015
Skyblue school donations, Mae Sot Thailand 2015

With the kids and their icecream at Skyblue school, Mae Sot Thailand 2015
Self portrait with dump kids #2, Mae Sot Thailand 2015

Friday, February 10, 2017

A Bunch Of "Families Of The Dump" Pics-Re Posted

Thought I would post these photos again for the fun of it. These are the images I quickly grabbed off google then placed  in a folder on my security work computer desktop. I searched through them for possible  "Ten Voices" gallery submission pics (an earlier blog). All these photos have previously been posted on this blog. They were made in late 2015, and early 2016, my last 2 times to Thailand.

In no particular order here they are!

Update* Just remembered I still have some, not a lot, but some 120mm film undeveloped from my last trip. Best get on it, develop, scan and post those on the blog as well.



Monday, May 22, 2017


Am sending this email out tomorrow (do not have internet mail access at work now) to 30 or so of my photo related friends in Canada. I hope my somewhat impassioned begging will help earn some donations and money for the dump families. I will have $500 of my own money, if I can some how find another $500 somewhere, along with donated goods like childrens clothes, hats etc. I will be sitting pretty heading back to the dump. $1000 plus goods would be a  nice gift for the "Families of the Dump", my friends in Mae Sot Thailand.

In the email I also sent information on the 2 upcoming exhibitions and the artist talk. Hope this email does not piss people off, but sometimes you have to take a chance if you see it as an important opportunity to help others.
Hi everyone.
I thought I would send one final email with all the exhibition info I have along with a plea to PLEASE help those less fortunate than ourselves. I usually do not ask people for money-donations but the things I have seen in Asia have changed the way I feel about email etiquette. Some things are just too important and you have to push hard to help those in need. After seeing first hand in person,  bare foot children run in garbage, people hungry, 10 year olds digging in garbage to raise money for their families, you do not worry about hurting the feelings of rich Canadian friends by asking them for help. I feel radicalized on this subject. So here is my donation plea, I hope it has a positive effect and we can together help the families and the children working the Mae Sot Thailand garbage dump.

Video of my first trips to the dump back in 2013.
Video of some people playing with my view camera
Another old video from 2013
Another old video from 2013 with some photos
Video from 2015 I think
Another old 2013 video with photos and music

I return to the “Families of the Dump” in October of 2017, will stay there for 6 months making photographs and making my first documentary film (on the life of one of the extended families). I am going to be buying food, rubber boots, headlamps (for night work) and also donating to a local school as well as helping the dump children buy school uniforms and pay school tuitions.  The money and or donations (used toys, hats, children’s clothing) I take with me to Thailand will be given directly to the families by me, or I will transfer them through a group working directly with the families that I have grown to trust. They do good honest work there, have seen them helping people in the dump for the last 4 years. A bit of background: I have been visiting, photographing, donating by myself and with this group since 2013. I have probably done over 50 day long dump visits over that time, multiple trips over multiple years. I now have many friends there, have photographed extensively over a long period of time. The growth of babies to children, children to young teens, a wedding, family outings, the life experience of those living in the garbage.
I am asking for a donation from you of money-small toys-children’s clothing and hats. With $10 I can buy and give 2 pairs of boots (cheap Chinese made) to people who work the garbage. I can buy  rice that I leave with the mother of the dump shack to feed her family, I can help a child go to school with tuition fees or school uniforms.  The price of 1 dinner out in Canada can help 2 or 3 large families in the garbage dump. Please, please consider donating some goods or some money to help those in need. We can all make the world a better place if we join in and contribute to the lives of the forgotten. You do not have to give lots, a child’s toy, old baby clothes, $5, $10, $20 everything makes a difference, everything can help. I will take 2 – 50lb check in bags loaded with photographic and film making tools but any room I have left over I will used for donated goods. The money I will use to buy things in Mae Sot Thailand where the families live. I can strike the best deals after negotiating prices at the local markets.  I can speak a fair amount of Thai to negotiate, and I also have several contacts there to help deliver food etc. to the dump which is outside of the main town.

Here are a ton of links to donation stories I have written on my photo blog over the years. PLEASE TAKE THE TIME TO READ SOME OF THEM. Giving can do so much good for the soul, over the years what I have done for the families has helped me 10 fold inside my own heart.
As for me, I plan on donating upwards of $500. I am getting a $400 artist fee for the “Trumpet” show listed below, and possibly a $100 shipping credit (am begging for that money now). I am also going to get money for an artist talk for the “Healing Process” exhibition, that money is being donated to the dump children as well as a gift from my father. I figure it should all add up to $500+  in help for the families. This is a great thing because it shows how photography, especially social documentary photography can do some real good. In the past several people (including some on this emails mailing list) have told me that photography does not matter, cannot help etc. I felt at the time that was wrong, and it was, the money from the showing of the photos is going to go back to the families in the photos, beautiful baby, so beautiful!!! Let’s show those naysayers that we as photographers and artists can make a positive difference in the lives of others. Let’s help the “Families of the Dump” together.
Ok end of donation plea. I did my best..