Polish photographer Kasia Wozniak uses the wet collodion process to create these enigmatic portraits on glass. Like Jody Ake and Allan Barnes she has reverted to the past, to the 19th Century to find a truth that she feels is absent from digital technology, to a craft that serves to bring more to the image than a mere reproduction, a pixelated vision of the world.
The process is time consuming, involves coating a plate with collodion and exposing the plate while it’s still wet. It’s slow, laborious, is a technique that takes much learning, the coating, sensitising, exposing and developing the photographic material, within a specific time frame, leaving much space for accident. It’s an antiquated process that doesn’t fit into our hyperactive world yet it is for that very reason that more artists are turning to it, giving time the opportunity to inspire and create a new form of photography for the 21st Century.
These portraits are particularly interesting as they are split portraits on glass, a strange hybrid, that jars with the viewer as if we’re looking at a persons face that has been quartered and reconstructed. Not fitting, out of kilter, odd, strange, bizarre. Not of this time. As Wozniak herself has said:
I’m fascinated by the idea of creating a haunting photographic image which is permanent on a material so fragile as a piece of glass. A photograph created once and only once in the moment never to be repeated. Throughout my work I question the authenticity of the image and how we look at the photographs today
This revision of classic portraiture has many possibilities and gives Wozniak the opportunity to plumb the depths of the human experience using this 160 year old technique. As she puts it:
There is something very magical about wet plate. Wet plate is unique not only because of its time line. It underlines an element of craft, for a photographer it is not only taking a picture, it is an extraordinary almost ceremonial experience. I’m fascinated by the physical aspect of the process, making every image from scratch is so exhilarating. Each sitting is a completely different experience, not only because of the subject but also because of what may happen in the darkroom as I process the images moments after its taken. The element of surprise, I find it extremely rewarding.