A photograph of me and Saxon Merino rams that appears in Organic: Farmers and Chefs of the Hudson Valley, a 2014 book by Francesco Mastalia who took the photo with a remanufactured version of an 1860 wooden-box 12" x 14" x 16" camera; it has a cloth drape on the rear that Francesco ducked under to frame the photograph. He developed the exposure by a wet plate collodion process, a 19th century technique.
Francesco uncapped the lens—I had to remain still for 5 seconds—he capped the lens and the photograph was taken. He developed the exposures on the tailgate of his Volvo station wagon—taking about 10 minutes—in a silver nitrate solution.
In the book there are a 100 wet plate collodion photographs of Hudson Valley farmers or chefs; each subject was interviewed about the controversial topic of organic; some of the interviews are pro and some are con, but interesting all.
Every Easter Susan and Francesco come to the farm and see the just born lambs. Both are professional photographers and they are recently married. I know Francesco because he's included me in Organic, his soon to be published book of photos and interviews with farmers and chefs in the Hudson Valley.
If you want to see an example of Francesco's work and see what 19th century photography looked like, click on (to make larger) my Twitter thumbnail photograph accessed form my website. Perhaps because I had to remain motionless for six seconds when the lens cap was off the lens for the exposure, there is a formal atmosphere, an almost meditative aspect, having a photo taken like this. After each image, one waited—like for a Polaroid photograph to come around—as Francesco developed each shot on the tailgate of his Volvo station wagon, his darkroom.
Looking, you could see the image emerging in the developing tray—it became less feint and it was you—photography was once again magic.
He said a friend of his, a former professional photographer, who now works at B & H says the point and shoot camera market has crashed because everybody has a camera on their phone and they use that instead.
Francesco also told me the the digital age in photography, particularly the afterimage editing software by Adobe and others—the ease with which a beginner can process photographs—has culled the ranks of long-time professional photographers. Francesco took up the wet plate collodion process that was first used in 1851; it's still difficult, time-consuming and very expensive while new cameras and techniques in photography have become simple, quick and cheap.
I miss my old 35 mm Nikon F film camera, the darkroom and a 36 exposure roll of 400 ISO Tri-X film. There is a different skill involved in taking those pictures and developing black and white film.
Noel, a granddaughter of Ansel Adams taught me darkroom technique one summer in San Francisco. We rented a darkroom which included the enlarger, the trays, the chemicals, etc. on Columbus Ave. across from the triangular park where early in the morning Chinese women did Tai Chi at the foot of Telegraph Hill. And the 30 Stockton overhead electric bus clacked at the turns and whirred up the hills.
Photo by Francesco Mastalia for his book on farmers and chefs of the Hudson Valley
Well, you can knock me down,
Step in my face,
Slander my name
All over the place.
Do anything that you want to do, but uh-uh,
Honey, lay off of them shoes
Don't you step on my blue suede shoes.
Well you can do anything but lay off of my blue suede shoes.
Carl Perkins, 1955