19th-century photography style still perfectly capturing the imperfect

Posted January 09, 2018 10:00:14

It’s messy, smelly and easy to stuff up but photographer Steve Lovegrove loves every minute of it.

He’s embraced the art of wet plate collodion photography, a method developed and used in the 1800s which is undergoing a bit of a revival in the art photography world.

What is wet plate collodion photography?

  • Collodion is a syrupy solution of pyroxylin in ether or alcohol and was first used to keep surgical dressings in place.
  • In 1851, Frederick Scott Archer and Gustave Le Gray simultaneously discovered collodion could be used for photography.
  • When used for photography, the collodion is spread on glass or tin plates, dipped in silver nitrate and exposed to ultraviolet light to develop an image.
  • When used on clear glass it produces a negative image, known as ambrotype, and that negative can be used to make multiple prints.
  • When a black backing is added it makes a positive, one-off image that cannot be replicated.
  • Collodion on tin is often called tintype or ferrotype.

“The process is still maddeningly frustrating, it’s messy, and when I’m making the little tins I probably only have a 50 per cent success rate,” Mr Lovegrove said.

“[But] there’s smell and there’s touch and those things appeal to me.”

Mr Lovegrove has worked as a photographer for 37 years, starting with film and moving into digital as the technology evolved.

“When digital came along I embraced digital photography … but over time I found I was spending far more time in front of a computer than I was making work,” he said.

“I really missed the tactile, hands-on physicality of making bespoke, handmade photography.”

Keen to get away from the computer more, Mr Lovegrove did a workshop trying the wet plate collodion method.

“That taste was enough for me to go, ‘Yeah, this is what I want to do’.”

He said he preferred to make one-off images that cannot be repeated.

“What I’m really trying to embrace is the perfection of the handmade image, and who cares if it’s not perfect? Nothing is perfect.

“To be able to not make the same thing twice is very appealing and to not know exactly how it’s going to come out until I turn the light back on.”

Mr Lovegrove’s darkroom is filled with various found objects, from tiny spiders to bird skeletons and bits of plants.

“I am a total hoarder,” he said.

“I collect stuff. I wander along the riverbank and I pick up odd and disgusting things because I think they look cool and I think they’ll make interesting photos.

“I have things I’ve stored here for 10 years or more and they never worked as digital images. And even as straight film they weren’t saying to me what I wanted.

“This was the process that could express what I saw in these objects.”

Using his found objects, Mr Lovegrove created a series of images in small vintage tins which he exhibited at the Revela-T Contemporary Analog Photography Festival in Barcelona last year.

“There’s a massive revival in analogue photography and film photography, especially in Europe,” he said.

Mr Lovegrove now has an exhibition, called Perfect Imperfect — The beauty of death, decay and accident, at the Studio Gallery at Salamanca Arts Centre until the end of January.

Topics: fine-art-photography, photography, visual-art, history, human-interest, person, hobart-7000

Help this family find the last photos of their grandma

Updated December 27, 2017 14:55:43

Grandmother-of-three Patricia Joyce took a dream trip with her husband for his 80th birthday, and she died on the night they returned to England.

Now her family are desperately searching for the photos from two cameras misplaced on the trip, which they believe were lost in a taxi in Sydney.

“Having the photos back would mean everything to us as a family, because these are the last images we have of my nan,” her granddaughter Charlotte Masters told the ABC.

A dream trip that was their last together

Mrs Joyce surprised Brian Joyce, her husband and partner of 63 years, with the tickets for his birthday.

The trip to visit Sydney for the first time and to see the Opera House was a “lifelong dream” for the Hampshire couple, her granddaughter said.

“She passed away the evening of their return to England and without us having the opportunity to talk to her about her trip,” Ms Masters said.

“Whilst my grandad can describe the excitement she expressed from the moment they docked in Sydney Harbour, it would be lovely for us to share that memory with the photographs she took.”

Ms Masters’ plea on Facebook has already been shared more 12,000 times and she said she and her family would be forever “indebted” to the people from all over the world offering their sympathy and help.

“The response to the posts on Facebook have been phenomenal and my family and I have been overwhelmed by the messages of condolence, offers of help and prayers [with] one person in particular spending her Christmas Eve phoning taxi companies, restaurants and bars for us,” she said.

Holiday details could provide camera clue

The Joyces travelled from Singapore to Sydney on the Ovation of the Seas cruise ship from November 21 to December 8.

They still had their cameras when they docked in Sydney some time between December 7 and 9. The cameras were:

  • A black Panasonic Lumix FX33 — serial number: FJ7SA005329
  • A silver Panasonic Lumix FX55 — serial number: FK7JA004534

Mr Joyce thinks they may have left their cameras in a black handbag on a trip between the Sydney Opera House and the Cambridge Hotel in the inner-city suburb of Surry Hills, but is unsure of which cab company they used.

The family are hoping that the memory cards can be found and returned to them and are not concerned about getting the cameras back.

They have asked anyone who finds the memory cards or cameras to contact them via Ms Masters’ Facebook page.

Topics: community-and-society, death, photography, sydney-2000, surry-hills-2010, united-kingdom

First posted December 27, 2017 13:12:06

Year’s lowest tides reveal secretive shipwrecks

Updated December 05, 2017 13:13:28

Darwin will be geographically bigger at 1:13pm local time today when the tides reach their lowest point of the year.

For Doug Wade, the 0.2-metre tide will be celebrated with his favourite pastime.

Mr Wade is a tide walker, so he regularly wanders far out on Darwin’s mud flats during the small window that a low tide provides.

“I love snorkelling but up here with the stingers and the crocs you don’t really get the opportunity,” he told ABC Radio Darwin‘s Richard Margetson.

“At low tide, you get to go out on the mud flats, on the reef and see everything that’s under the water, minus a few of the big fish.”

Mr Wade’s expeditions have revealed blue-ringed octopuses, stonefish and stranded stingers, but the low tides also expose another mysterious feature of the sea.

It is one of the few opportunities to see the many shipwrecks within walking distance of Darwin’s shoreline.

“At low tides like this, it’s the only time,” he said.

“But today’s a pretty special day where all the corals and those special places that are normally right under water, under six metres of water, you can get down and see those really spectacular things.”

Maritime archaeologist Dr Silvano Jung has been surveying the degrading shipwrecks that become visible during especially low tides for more than 10 years.

He said today’s tide was welcome news to archaeologists because exploring submerged shipwrecks was a logistically challenging task.

One ship, Ataluma, met its end during Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day in 1974.

But little is known about some of the others, many of which were victims of vicious storms.

“There’s a wreck of the Dutch bomber at Nightcliff on Sunset Park,” Mr Wade said.

“Tragically it just took off from Darwin and crashed and seven people lost their lives.”

The tale is a tragic one, but it has become fodder for other history enthusiasts searching Darwin’s shores.

“There’s a bit of the fuselage and some of the motor you can see out there now,” Mr Wade said.

Topics: human-interest, photography, maritime, history, archaeology, cyclone, cyclones, darwin-0800

First posted December 05, 2017 13:02:47

Reporting war from the frontlines of history

Posted November 26, 2017 12:59:17

Over his 50-year career, journalist Derek Maitland survived conflict zones, witnessed the aftermath of bombings and negotiated with armed militants.

Now he is in the toughest battle of his life fighting cancer.

In the midst of writing his memoirs, he spared a moment to share some of his adventurous experiences from the comparative tranquillity of his home in Canowindra, NSW.

“It’s been a very enjoyable time, both good and bad,” Mr Maitland said.

His career-defining moment was during the 1960s while reporting on the Vietnam War for an American news service.

Working alongside other young, brash journalists, he placed himself in an environment where danger could arise at any moment.

“The view going into the war was that it was the wrong conflict and it was wrong to do that to the Vietnamese people,” Mr Maitland said.

“But then of course was the excitement of actually being in a place of war where it was going on all around you.

“There wasn’t a front somewhere. It could happen in the shop right next to you.

“Our life became go out on operation, stay alive, get the best pictures you possibly can.”

An early passion for reporting

Mr Maitland’s interest in global affairs began as a young boy selling newspapers on a street corner in Perth in the mid-1950s.

“As I learnt more about what journalists do, I always wanted to be a journalist around the world covering major events,” he said.

A decade earlier his parents had survived the war in Europe and decided to emigrate from the UK to Australia.

During his youth, he did stints of unpaid newspaper work and a television news cadetship, but by his early twenties he was eager to see the world.

So he boarded a ship to Hong Kong with just 25 pounds in his pocket.

“My life really began the day I saw Kowloon docks in 1966,” Mr Maitland said.

He found work with a local newspaper and soon saved enough money for a ticket to Vietnam.

In doing so, he broke a promise to his mother, who had begged him not to go near the conflict zone.

“It was hard on her because she told me years later that she said ‘My hair started going white when I knew you were there and going out with the troops’,” he said.

Battle of Dak To

During his two years covering the war in Vietnam, one of the most harrowing scenes he witnessed was after an American combat brigade suffered heavy casualties in the country’s central highland region.

“It was just a big pile of bodies, in all incredible states and profiles, states and distortions,” Mr Maitland said.

“Many of them on top of others where obviously the men right at the bottom of the heap had died last using the already dead bodies as cover.

“It was just a mass of green, bodies, blood and total annihilation.”

When US helicopters arrived to retrieve the dead and wounded, Mr Maitland was caught in the thick of a battle when North Vietnamese forces ambushed from the hills.

“I suddenly went into this thing where I lost my mind, it was all too much. All I could say was ‘God get me out of this’.”

His experiences in Vietnam traumatised him for years to come, but he persisted in reporting on conflicts around the globe, and wrote several books in between.

As a television news producer for the BBC during the 1970s, Mr Maitland reported on the sectarian troubles brewing in Northern Ireland.

Through the contacts of his cameraman, who was a Catholic, he arranged an interview with an Irish Republican Army (IRA) Belfast Brigade leader.

Unfortunately, the report he brought back never made it to air.

Mr Maitland attributed its censorship to the political pressures on the broadcaster at the time.

Breaking big stories

In 1984, Mr Maitland’s camera crew was the first on the scene to film the aftermath of an IRA bomb blast at a Brighton hotel, aimed at the British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, who was attending a Conservative Party conference at the venue.

“We heard that for the first time in history the BBC was opening its morning news an hour early because we knew we were the only people who had the [footage],” he said.

On another assignment in Lebanon, he met with Palestinian Liberation Front militants when he accompanied the daughter of a missing British journalist who was believed to be held hostage by Hezbollah, to search for evidence of his captivity.

On that same trip, Mr Maitland was injured when a young militant inadvertently fired a rocket launcher while posing for the camera crew.

He took the full force of the back-blast.

“It was the biggest boom that you had heard in your life. It ripped my eardrums out,” Mr Maitland said.

“I’m lying there thinking ‘I’m dead, I’ve got a hole right through me’.”

Personal battle with cancer

Despite his experience facing stressful and dangerous situations, nothing could prepare Mr Maitland for the mental and physical strains of receiving a cancer diagnosis last year.

“I just broke down and bawled when I first heard it,” he said.

A year after an operation to remove his kidney, he was then told another tumour had developed in his liver.

All hope seemed lost until an oncologist from Sydney agreed to perform a surgery that could potentially save Mr Maitland’s life.

“It’s really just incredible. One minute you’re looking at death and you’ve convinced yourself, next minute you’re being told you can live.”

Mr Maitland feels optimistic that the imminent operation will bring him relief from what he described as one of the toughest battles yet.

“That’s going to be so exciting,” he said.

“Once I get through this operation my life begins again. The day after that will be the first day of my new life.”

Topics: unrest-conflict-and-war, photography, people, canowindra-2804, vietnam

Capturing tender moments as a funeral photographer

Posted November 07, 2017 08:00:00

The touch of a hand on a shoulder, the stare of a young girl towards a coffin, the loving embrace between a grieving widow and a relative — these are the tender moments that motivate John Staynor in his work as a professional funeral photographer.

For the past 10 years, Mr Staynor has been capturing the emotions of families and friends as they bid farewell to their loved ones.

“I had a mid-life crisis when I was 40, and I didn’t want to be another wedding photographer,” he said.

“A neighbour asked me to do a funeral and I thought, ‘I’m addicted to this’. It’s a really interesting space to be in.”

Mr Staynor is not the usual guest you would see at a funeral, although the practice of capturing such an event is becoming more frequent.

He is hired to attend at least one funeral a week in Sydney, and said the period after Christmas was his busiest.

“I’m finding that families want a photographer for the surviving spouse who may have Alzheimer’s,” he said.

“They’re wanting the photos as a memory aid to explain that their spouse has died.”

Mr Staynor said his photos were also used as a record for overseas family members who were unable to attend funerals at short notice.

In his decade of work, he has only ever had one complaint from someone offended that he was there taking photos.

“At the beginning it’s important to be seen with the family members so people understand that I’m not paparazzi,” he said.

Staying respectful is important

Mr Staynor has rules he follows, and he tries to remain “invisible” the entire time.

He uses zoom lenses, never interrupts the proceedings, and never uses a flash during the proceedings.

His job starts as the guests arrive, continues through the mass or service to the committal, and then the wake.

“I will never sit in the front seat with the family, but if I can approach through the side … near the choir, for example, I can photograph then,” he said.

“I’m trying to build up a chronology of the day. It’s very discreet.”

Capturing the tiny moments

What has amazed Mr Staynor about funerals are the moments people would least expect to see in print.

In one photo book he bound for the widow of a police officer, Mr Staynor’s favourite shot was a loving kiss between a husband and wife.

Another was of the officer’s grandchildren jumping up in the air with smiles on their faces, finally able to release some energy after hours of “being good” through the service.

He still recalls the first funeral he ever photographed.

“People expect the widow to be devastated, but in my experience that certainly isn’t the case at all,” he said.

“The very first funeral I did, she was the life of the party.”

Mr Staynor said he searched for the compassion between loved ones at every event.

“Ultimately, I’m interested in capturing tenderness,” he said.

“In one funeral I took an image of a mourner touching the son of the deceased on the shoulder.

“These are really small moments. They’re tiny gestures of people being kind to each other, and for me that’s the essence of my photography.”

Topics: community-and-society, photography, careers, offbeat, sydney-2000

How a birds-eye view turned the outback into art

Posted October 30, 2017 09:25:50

Is this a painting or a photograph?

It is a question many people have asked photographer Martine Perret, who has put together a body of work that turns the landscapes of Western Australia into something that could comfortably on the wall of any art gallery.

Taking to the skies over WA over the past three years, Perret has captured a view of WA that very few people get to see.

“Basically, I’ve been flying above various regions — the Goldfields, Shark Bay, Derby, Broome,” she said.

“It’s the most amazing and unique perspective; the colours and patterns and shapes … almost like paintings.

“In the Goldfields it’s obviously more the red or purple, but if you go to Shark Bay it’s turquoise and blue which is amazing as well.”

While the pictures might look like they are taken from a drone, Perret shoots the old fashioned way — working out of airplanes and helicopters with a camera.

Working within aviation regulations, she uses differing heights and times of day to capture remarkable variations in the landscape.

Aerial photography developed during UN work

Perret’s latest work, recently published in her new book Beyond: Above Western Australia, is a far cry from where her career has taken her.

After working as a freelance photographer in Sydney, she spent a decade working for the United Nations, documenting civil war and human tragedy in Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

More recently she worked in West Africa capturing images of the Ebola crisis which struck the region in 2014.

It was there her passion for aerial photography first took shape.

“I worked 10 years in the UN, and with the UN you fly a lot,” Perret said.

“Sometimes the roads are not passable. There’s checkpoints, there could be dangerous items on the road … you could potentially be ambushed.”

Hopes to capture the rest of WA

While safety and security dictated her flights in Sudan and the Western Sahara, Perret decided she wanted to fly and tell her own story.

Settling in Margaret River in south-west WA, she began capturing that region’s landscape from the sky, eventually self-publishing her first collection of photos from the area in 2014.

Since then, she has set her lens on WA’s Goldfields, taking part in Ngala Wongga, or Come Talk — a wider project documenting speakers of the region’s endangered native languages.

She said she wanted to continue to capture the state as a whole from the air.

“I think I’ll do it bit-by-bit,” Perret said.

“The first reactions have been great. People absolutely love it so I’m thrilled.”

Topics: fine-art-photography, regional, photography, environment, kalgoorlie-6430, broome-6725, karratha-6714, geraldton-6530, bunbury-6230, margaret-river-6285, perth-6000, albany-6330, esperance-6450

Photographer refused bail on alleged rape, assault of models

Posted October 19, 2017 11:41:34

A Newcastle photographer has been refused bail on multiple charges relating to an alleged series of serious sexual assaults of models during photo shoots.

Allan Todd Cameron, 54, of Gateshead, appeared in Newcastle Local Court on Thursday charged with 17 offences including eight courts of sexual intercourse without consent, three counts of inciting a person 16 years or over to commit act of indecency and two counts of procuring a person, who is not a prostitute, for prostitution.

NSW police said they began investigating complaints against the man after a 19-year-old woman complained she was sexually assaulted during a photography session at a studio in June.

Officers seized a computer containing more than 300,000 images — a number of which were sexually explicit — which led them to two further women.

Police inspector Steve Gallagher said those two women, both now aged 25, also alleged they were assaulted during photo sessions in 2012 and 2017.

In applying for bail, Mr Cameron’s lawyer Mark Evans said his client had no criminal history and had strong ties to the community.

Mr Cameron runs a photographic business called Primeval Edge. On his website, he said “the styles which capture my interest currently include Casual Fashion, Bikini, Pin Up, Lingerie, and Glamour [sic]”.

“I’m currently looking for challenging concepts that push my creative boundaries,” the website said.

“I am not looking to work with Diva’s [sic]. If your [sic] not about hard work while having fun and more about being as difficult as possible to get along with, look somewhere else.”

The court heard his business had been shut down because to his equipment was seized by police.

Magistrate Ian Cheetham rejected the bail application and said “individually and combined, the facts are very serious crimes”.

Police said any other women who believe they have been assaulted by the photographer should not be afraid to come forward.

“If anyone is out there who thinks that they have information … or they may indeed be a victim, they should contact Lake Macquarie detectives or Crime Stoppers and we will be very keen to speak with them,” Inspector Gallagher said.

Mr Cameron is due to face court again in December.

Topics: law-crime-and-justice, courts-and-trials, photography, pornography, newcastle-2300, nsw