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Raised Emboss On ID Card
CREDIT: Alan Hodgson ASIS HonFRPS

Collodion conference

A focus on perfection?

It is too easy to get into the habit of judging photography by prescriptive metrics. Is the focus perfect? No blown highlights? Colour just so? Free from artefacts? For so many reasons I am becoming less and less comfortable with these metrics. Having spent 2 days in the RPS / CFPR Collodion conference reinforced this view.

I come from a silver halide analogue background and for high end / exhibition work physical retouching was the norm. It was industrialised in Hollywood promotional photography. And in the era of Photoshop it has never been easier. But that doesn't make it necessary.

One of the great benefits of conference attendance is that it serves as a prompt for reflective practice - thinking about your photography so as to engage in a process of continuous learning. Sometimes it also prompts a reset on the direction of your work. So it was for me as a result of taking part in this conference.

I had taken part to present a technical paper on one aspect of collodion work, an education in itself. One immediate benefit was some historical context for my President's address, delivered after the 2020 AGM. But probably the longer lasting benefit came from the perspectives of the collodion practitioners at the meeting.

Collodion plates often have artefacts of the process. Rather than try and eliminate them many of these artists rejoice in them as an integral part of the final image. This resonated with me as much of my latter work has been documenting genuine and fake security printing. Here the artefacts tell a significant part of the story.

So to the image. A security feature in an identity card imaged through a metallurgical research microscope. Here the "artefacts" are very much part of the image. These artefacts are part of the process flow - again I record and rejoice in these.

And the conference also reminded me - I need to get back into glass plate work!