Wetcollodion on 5x7" glass series
The question of whether photographs differ when created by a woman's eye versus a man's is very easy to answer at Klavdija Žitnik's exhibition. Yes, definitely! In this exhibition, the author presents a series of photographs that deeply delve into the sphere of self-awareness and is the most beautiful display of women's sensibility and creativity.
In the series "Woodland Villas" we can see women who are part of nature, allies of their beauty. They seek shelter in it and merge with it. In these photographs, the forest is presented to us as a place of holiness. With this series, the author encourages reflection, which we need more today than ever before. Our ancestors left us rich, healthy, vast forests, and today’s greedy society threatens them with unbridled logging and a polluted atmosphere.
The photographic technique of wet collodions on glass, which the author uses, is insensitive to most visible light, so the portraits are drawn in a spectrum of ultraviolet and blue light, not yellow-orange. The lens also has a completely different drawing, as the 360 mm focal length lens on the 13x18 cm (5x7”) format is actually equivalent to the 80 mm focal length on the classic“ leica ”format (2.4 x 3.6 cm). Because of the described, the portraits turn out differently than we are used to seeing. There is, of course, no coincidence here, the author's conscious decision to choose a tool and technique to add a new, artistic dimension to her vision of the portrait.
The author took photographs of this exhibition in an analogous way; on glass photographic plates - ambrotypes.
The process of wet collodions on glass is a special challenge, as the author had to prepare and develop glass plates in the field. The process of wet collodions on glass was invented in 1851 and prevailed until 1890. The advantage of this is that it has an extremely sharp and tonally rich drawing and even surpasses digital photography in these areas. The disadvantage of this process, however, is that it requires at least a hundred times more light than the cheapest film. The sensitivity of the wet board is somewhere between ISO 0.3 to ISO 5, depending on the chemistry and especially the color spectrum of the light that illuminates the motif.
The big challenge of photographing on a wet plate is that the glass plate needs to be prepared just before the process, illuminated immediately and developed immediately afterwards. Collodion glass plate is sensitive only when it is still wet. It is both a curse and a blessing for the photographer. The curse, especially when photographing in the field, is that Klavdija Žitnik had to carry all the darkness, all the chemistry and all the water to the location of the shooting, to the forest. The blessing, however, comes from this same curse, because a glass plate needs to be developed on the spot, and - magic happens when a photograph is made of ordinary glass. The photographer and the person portrayed see the photography in front of them at the same time, they witness the magic of chemistry and physics.
Photographing the process of wet collodions on glass in the field is always a big challenge. But challenges also give birth to opportunities. In the photo titled “She”, there was a coincidence of solarization by chance, because some developers remained on the board and this board was exposed to daylight before it went into the fixer. This coincidence, which, like any coincidence, is turnkey, has contributed to an additional visual effect, where fog spreads from the beautiful forest villa, from the black interior. Sorry, this is just an interpretation of the author of this text, but the point is that in analog photography these coincidences happen, this magic that is very organic and very authentic.
The exhibition is also a great proof of how craftsmanship and knowledge of photographic procedures can be used very creatively.
The dividing line between success and failure is the focus, which more often than not stretches from one hour to one day, from one day to one weekend and the weekend project becomes year-round. For some, solitary work in the dark is a time of focus that is most reminiscent of meditation, and anyone who has experienced this knows what I am talking about. I have no doubt that the author Klavdija Žitnik knows what I am talking about.
No doubt coincidence plays an important role in these processes, many photographs need to be taken and most of them fail, but those who make their way to the exhibition tell their own story, a story of awareness and connection. A story of female energy.
Ambrotype, collodion, wetplate