Alex Timmermans Collodion
He refers to himself as the “Alchemist”. I guess, considering the almost ‘ancient processes’ and equipment he employs, alchemist, or even magician, is as good a moniker as any. Be assured that “getting the image” is not just the snap of a shutter. Add to this the actual vision of the photographer, removed from the process, and you have an almost Tim Burton steampunk netherworld of photography.
The process of Collodion wet plate has been around about 175 years, give or take. Maintaining a passion for such a cumbersome and intricate process when surrounded by a society of iPads and selfies is amazing. Do you think all those bubble butt women with duck faces would even exist on Instagram in Alex Timmermans world? I don’t think so. They couldn’t stand still for that long.
Alex Timmermans was born in 1962. He is a self taught artist, beginning with a Nikormat Ftn. He eventually took the plunge and went digital. But noticed the “sameness” of this new digital age. And worse, the predictability. The “excitement and magic” of film was gone. Almost as if “artists” had become “pipefitters”. A certainly well respected skill, but devoid of any creative inspiration.
I guess he could have just returned to film, but working with the magical “ancient” processes of wet plate was beyond inspiring. From searching out and using antique cameras, to employing brass lenses made in an age before Zeiss was even a twinkle in Mr. Zeiss’s eye. (assuming there was a Mister Zeiss)
The chemicals used are simple,…but the procedure is anything but consistent. But the detail! “Amazing” seems an understatement. Juxtaposed against a razor thin DOF, and characteristic old timey lens blur at the edges of the frame, makes for a one of a kind image every time.
There are many different organic variables that can, and do, effect the process. From barometer changes, to the fact that a ‘plate’ cannot be prepared in advance. And if any part of this is done outdoors, not only do you have to bring the camera and peripheral lighting, but even the darkroom!
Alex Timmermans collodion journey is no mean feat. He has spent years finding antique cameras, all but impossible to find lenses, and has even had a 20″ x 24″ camera made for him. And many think he’s the only one exploring such an archaic process, but an Ian Ruhter proves otherwise. A movement? Probably not. But more than dedication. Passion. To make a single image requires cleaning the glass, pouring the plate with collodion, sensitize, exposure, developing, washing, fixing, washing it again and finally varnishing. In one fell swoop. You can’t fix it in “post”.
Lost Process, Found Art
Many say his collection of antique lenses alone, mostly Petzval, are in and of themselves ‘priceless’. But it is in fact each unique image that is priceless. Alex Timmermans is on a quest. And he knows when things are too easy, their value is lost in mediocrity. Alex Timmermans may suffer from many things, but mediocrity is not one of those vices. Find Petzval Lenses