On Friday I got a call from Emil, a researcher on the BBC The One Show. They were running a segment on Roger Fenton, his photographic work in the Crimean War and as Royal Photographer to Queen Victoria. They were looking for a photographer who worked in the same technique as Fenton to come to the studio and show Joe Crowley the process and maybe shoot a plate of Alex Jones and Matt Baker.
The main video footage was introduced and presented by photographer Giles Duley who was injured in Afghanistan in 2011 after he stepped on an IED losing three limbs. Also taking part was Professor Roger Taylor and the curator of Stonyhurst College which holds more than 100 original Fenton albumen prints.
Available to watch on BBC iPlayer here.
Here are some screengrabs from the show.
Details were a little vague as to what I was to be doing exactly. Turned out they wanted a plate making of Alex and Matt dressed in Victorian outfits. Emil had sorted out an excellent space to use as a darkroom, that was short walk from the main studio. Joe had no background in photography but was really keen to have a go at pouring and shooting his own plate. After some further health and safety discussions and getting the go ahead to use the chems in the building we set up the darkroom and the lighting/camera in the studio.
I shot a plate first to show Joe the process and to judge the lighting/exposure that we’d need. In this case it was 15 seconds at f4.5.
Joe then had a go at a test plate, now to go from no experience at all, to pouring a whole plate (6.5″ x 8.5″) could be quite daunting, but he did really well. After sensitising and loading the plate, a quick dash up stairs to the studio, Emil and another member of crew posed for Joe’s test plate. A quick run back downstairs and dev the plate. Now this stage can be a bit tricky for a lot of first time wet platers but again Joe did well. Turned out a real nice plate.
So, all was ready, things had been a bit rushed but we felt competent it would all go to plan…
Alex and Matt had changed into costume and we got word over the radio we had five minutes exactly before they changed again. A good collodion pour by Joe again and we were back in the studio within 4 minutes. A 15 second exposure and a run back downstairs. Now heres where things got a little tricky, maybe under the pressure Joe sadly missed most of the plate with the dev, managing to totally non develop Alex’s head!
I was sworn to secrecy, it was run by the Producer who said to go with it… I guess you’ll just have to watch the footage. Alex did take it in good humour. And as Joe mentioned it just goes to show how difficult wet plate can be especially when under pressure.
Its a shame as his test plate was really nice, and he’d practiced the dev pour a couple of times on a spare plate. I’ll see if I can get a jpeg of it off Emil.
Thanks to everyone for an excellent day, especially Emilios, Richard and Elliott. Also thanks to Joe for being such a willing student even if it was very rushed, to Alex and Matt, especially to Alex as I called her Sian when she said hello to me! No idea why I did that, sorry.
All images courtesy of BBC The One Show – screengrabs from iplayer.