Tatanka Iyotake, South Dakota, USA, ca.1888

Reviewing the list of exhibitions at the Revela-T 2015 event, dedicated entirely to the “analogue photography” caught my interest the exhibition “Collodionists Worldwide”. A promising exhibition by the variety of works and countries represented, and a reason to congratulate the organizers to collect so many works in that technique.

Although I am no expert on the subject, it is understood that when we speak of a collodion we mean a single copy, -usually a positive on a metal plate-. A positive from a collodion negative would not take that name but the name of the positive technique to accomplish it.

I noticed that at the bottom of the text of the exhibition, included two companies producing the event. One dedicated to printing digital albums for amateurs and cards for baptisms. The other with a lovely web and vintage look, dedicated to chemical development of negatives, scanning and digital printing.

The first company does not worth a comment how far is from the analog chemical photography. About the second one, I was pretty disturbed by their order form to develop negatives, from the possible replies the customer should check to the following question: What do you want us to do with your negatives?

  • Save them for future prints
  • Send them to you once they are scanned
  • They can be discarded

For someone like me, who has always developed his own black and white negatives and prints, according to the desired result using a developer in particular, choosing some sort of dilution or certain temperature, it becomes quite strange that those using these analog negatives nowadays, are so far from what chemical photographic darkroom means and trust industrial labs for this purpose.

If the photographic print is god for me, the negative is the holy spirit. So the option “Save them for future prints” shows a lack of respect for the own work of the people who make this choice, trusting third parties to storage of something unique.

The third option “They can be discarded” entry seems surreal and out of place. But after a brief reflection, it is obvious that if the laboratory has in its form, is because they use it or have ever used. So the user of this third option, what he/she finally gets is a digital file, which can “show off” about it as coming from analog. “Look at the grain…, Look at the dynamic range.., It has nothing to do with the digital…”

Returning to the promising exhibition “Collodionists Worldwide” and reading the text accompanying it, I ran out of adjectives to name what describes the following:

Collodionists Worldwide

An eclectic selection of works by colodionists from the five continents, this exhibit is made up of works sent by practitioners of this technique who were called together through the social networks to participate in this exhibition. They have given us the rights of exhibition of one of their works exclusively for the Revela-T 2015 festival.

After the exhibition, we would like to mount the exposition in other locations with the photographers’ permission and, eventually, destroy both the printed copies and the files to keep our commitment to the photographers.

This text explains the exhibit was not collodion, but reproductions of original collodion, made from digital files, on digital printing, carried out by one or both of the producing labs of such event.

Revela-T calls himself “The only analog photography festival in the world”. I would suggest them to change this subtitle by “An analog photography festival unique in the world”.

Showing digital reproductions, on an analog festival, as original collodions, certainly makes them quite unique.