Friday, September 6, 2013

Test Ambrotypes with Restored Whole Plate Camera

My first indoor shot! Note uneven emulsion and way under exposed.
I thought I would post some examples of the first 61/2 x 81/2 test ambrotypes I made back in May and June 2013. If you recall I bought a Empire State view camera. The camera was made around 1900 or so by the Rochester Camera company and is the whole plate"" size. That is it takes 61/2 X 81/2 inch images. I will probably have to add a post about how I make the plates and sensitize them. The whole project is an on going experiment with many variables. For these first negatives, I used Liquid Lights Ag-Plus. I followed the instructions and when I got in trouble I looked up tips on-line.
The hardest thing is pouring the plates and getting a even coat of emulsion. The plates are large, its a lot of surface area to cover. The Ag-Plus is thick, so I think I will have to mix a little photoflow to get it thinner and flow around the glass better. The other issue was keeping the emulsion from frilling"" or coming off the glass during development. Fixed that issue by adding Chrome Alum to the gelatine during the first coating of the plates.

Emulsion way to thick!

I had a thick blob of emulsion that flowed to the bottom left corner. I think that was a result of cooling emulsion and not storing them in a level surface while it dried.

Here is the result of frilling. The emulsion started to separate from the glass.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Nice write up from Proteus Gowanus

A wonderful article about my work by Sasha Chavchavadze from Proteus Gowanus.


Robert Gould – The Tree Still Stands

Maryland Willow R GouldBlog
Robert Gould, Maryland Willow of the Gowanus

Robert Gould finds constants through nature. While reading Georgia Fraser’s 1909 book “The Stone House of the Gowanus,” he encountered a description of an old willow tree that was thought to date back to the time of the Battle of Brooklyn. Though Gould thinks the story is apocryphal, it propelled him to search for a willow branch, trace its leaves, which he applied to an 87″ x 92″ painting. On each leaf he wrote the name of a Maryland soldier, many of whom were slaughtered in the culminating moments of the battle. Sometimes Gould uses dirt or crushed brick from battle sites as a painting medium.
These are not paintings that translate American Revolutionary imagery into kitsch or pop images as Larry Rivers did when he painted “Washington Crossing the Delaware.” Nor are they a jingoistic attempt to glorify, simplify or “re-enact” this dramatic event that took place in 1776. There is a sense of irony and loss in Gould’s paintings, which attempt to inhabit the “skin” of this forgotten moment, reliving its pathos. But the nostalgia here is not a longing to return, rather an attempt to use the past as a “medium” to integrate the present.
Could there be an unhealed “wound” in this forgotten battle, one of only two full-scale military invasions sustained by this country (the other was during the War of 1812)? Interestingly, when asked for his sources of inspiration, Gould cites the German artists Joseph Beuys and Anselm Kiefer. These artists were processing the brutality of World War II. Why, one might ask, didn’t American visual artists of the same generation use their wartime experiences as source material? The simple answer might be that World War II never reached U.S. soil. But American artists of that time seemed rooted in the “new,” wedded to a timeless formalism that considered any kind of nostalgia anathema.
Robert Gould, The Witness Tree
Gould’s pinhole camera images of battle sites, photographed with a refitted toy camera, telescope time and space, peering into the past.  Contemporary urban sites where the battle was fought are photographed simply as they are today. The images, such as “The Witness Tree,” an oak that stands today on a golf course, speak silently and directly about forgotten knowledge.


Thursday, April 18, 2013

Mt. Prospect Tower and The Old Reservoir

Tower that was located in the area of the Mt Prospect playground.
A view of Grand Army Plaza. Perhaps taken from the tower.

Nice glass plate photo of Grand Army Plaza area under construction.

A Photograph taken of the view from inside the tower.
The Brooklyn Museum going in before Eastern Parkway is finished.
A view of the old reservoir that was sited just behind the Post Office in what is today an area of Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.

Not sure if this was the view of the pump house along Flatbush Ave or not.

I found most of these old photos at the Brooklyn Museum of Art web site.

Mount Prospect is named for its sweeping views (some no longer possible) of Manhattan, Brooklyn, and parts of New Jersey and Staten Island to the west, the Atlantic Ocean to the south, and Long Island to the east.[1] Peak elevation is 200 feet (61 m) above sea level.[2] It was a lookout point for the Continental Army in 1776. The Battle of Long Island (sometimes called Battle of Brooklyn) was fought nearby.[1]
In 1856, the then City of Brooklyn built a reservoir atop Mt. Prospect,[1] soon to be supplemented by the larger Ridgewood Reservoir. In 1860, Mt. Prospect was to be included in the city's ambitious new Prospect Park, to be designed by Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted, who were in the process of designing the more famous Central Park for New York City. The designers felt that the fact that Flatbush Avenue, the main roadway from Brooklyn to Flatbush would cut through the park meant that the eastern portion of potential parkland including Mt. Prospect should not be included.[1]
Brooklyn City kept control of the land, which then passed to the City of Greater New York in 1898. Various plans were made for the rejected parkland, including its division into city streets and lots. The major portion of the land became Institute Park, a private park, which was developed into today's Brooklyn Botanic Garden, still a private institution.
The City retained the reservoir at Mount Prospect until it was deemed obsolete due to the shifting of the New York City water supply system to sources in Upstate New York. In 1940, Mount Prospect Park was moved to the Parks Department as a city park and playground.[1]

A Nice plate photo of The Meadow at Prospect Park.

Battle Ground"" at Proteus Gowanus

 Here is the info on a group show that I am in at Proteus Gowanus. I am showing two paintings and nine photographs. Taken from the Proteus Gowanus web site.
The exhibition will be up until June 30th, 2013. I will post more info as it becomes available.
Proteus Gowanus
543 Union Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215
Gallery Hours
Thurs & Fri: 3 – 6
Sat & Sun: 12 – 6
Saturday, April 13, 7:00 pm
Please join us for opening reception of Battle Ground, the third and last exhibit of our yearlong Battle theme. Battle Ground will explore the pathos of the Battle of Brooklyn, stimulating our collective memory, evoking parallels between past and present, while focusing on the complexity, moral ambiguity, and devastation of this important Revolutionary confrontation. Historical imagery, rendered meaningless by over-use and political manipulation, will be revived in new forms.
The word “revolution” circles around us, forming the early consciousness of our country. History, also cyclical, repeats itself, and when it is forgotten, it haunts us, lying dormant in our collective memories. In 1776 one such haunting unfolded across a wide swath of what is now Brooklyn. Perhaps the battle is often forgotten (relative to others) because it was, in the words of Walt Whitman, a “resolute defeat.”
The battle-haunting still rages around us at Proteus Gowanus. Its culminating events took place just feet from our gallery location, along what was then the Gowanus Creek. The fields and marshes of 1776 are now a post-industrial urban landscape, and the Gowanus Canal is a hotly contested Federal Superfund and development site.
Battle Ground is curated by Sasha Chavchavadze with help from Robert Gould, Angela Kramer and Eva Melas.
Battle Ground participants include artists, educators, urban planners and writers:
Paul Benney, Peter Bonner, Sasha Chavchavadze, Eymund Diegel, Robert Gould, Katarina Jerinic, Andrew Keating, Christina Kelly, V. Komar & A. Melamid, Angela Kramer, Robyn Love, Eva Melas, Duke Riley, Robert Sullivan.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Camera restoration update

The finished camera.

With lens cap removed

The restoration of my Rochester view camera is finished. Below are a bunch of photos of what I did to try and get this camera back in operation. Now I am drying some plastic plates and getting ready to float some emulsion on them. Then I will have to take a chance to figure out some ball park exposures to try. Hopefully this camera will be ready to take to the field soon.


The work bench. I removed the back end of the camera so I could fix the camera base. I had to fit a threaded T nut so that I could attach the camera to a tripod. Then I had to fix the wood rails so the front of the camera can move smoothly back and forth.
Close up of rail repair. I used a piece of oak floor to replace the chewed up part.

The T nut before it is set in the old tripod hole.
I created a new film guide replacing one that was lost. Also a stack of fresh cut glass plates.

Making a Full Plate Film Holder

I made one plate holder to try out. I built it by sandwiching layers of Masonite and 1/8th inch Luan. I also used the fabric part of Velcro to act as a light trap and help support the dark slide.
The plate holder with a piece of glass in it.
The plate holder with out the plate. Note two small tabs that hold the plate in the frame. You can also see the fabric side of Velcro that I added as an extra light trap.
Plate holder with dark slide

Cutting Glass

I set up a small glass cutting area. It was easier than I thought and I didn't cut myself or break any plates. After I cut the glass to 61/2 X 81/2 inches I used a diamond sharpening stone to smooth the edges. It worked great. Now my glass plates have safe smooth edges and are ready for cleaning and sensitizing with silver.

Glass cutting tool.

Grinding the edge of the plate with a diamond stone to make a smooth edge
Some plexiglass plates that I coated with oil based pyoiurathane. I thought I would try these plastic plates first so I could get a handle on the coating process and see what kind of exposures I can expect.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

New Camera-Rochester Optical, Empire State View 1880's

A period image of my camera. Taken from ""

The "Flea-Bay" stars finally aligned and I was able to get a antique view camera. For awhile, I have been researching alliterative photography processes and decided that I wanted to work with glass negatives. One reason is that I wanted to get away from the expense of film, especially large format film. And two I want to add a more creative look to my photos, adding a level of physicality. I thought about trying wet plate, but I was definitely turned off by the challenge. It looks like just to many steps and specialized chemistry for me to play with and learn. While I am a fan of "process", wet plate seems just to cumbersome, time consuming, and expensive for me now.
Looking at simpler methods of creating my own negatives, I found that Liquid Light makes a emulsion product that has a higher silver content than regular liquid light. It's called "Liquid Light Ag". I believe it is was developed for photographers to make tin types, but it can also be used for creating "ambrotypes" on glass. The product is simple to use and you use it dry. That way I can make up some plates ahead of time, expose them, and develop them later.  I think this would be an perfect way or me to go,  but the first thing I need is a camera to shoot with.
This is a before photo of the camera as I received it. It is over all in usable shape. The bellows, lens and rear focusing glass are all intact.
The camera I ended up with is a Rochester Optical, Empire State in "full plate" size. Meaning that it will take a 6 1/2 X 8 1/2 image. The camera came with a nice wide angle lens. I am really happy with the camera because it doesn't need a lot of work to restore. The bellows are nice and light tight. The rear ground glass looks original. The wood work is messed up in a couple of areas that I will have to address later. But aside from those areas the camera is good to go, after a good cleaning that is.
For that I broke down the camera totally and washed all the wood with hot water and scrubbed it with Murphy's Oil Soap. This took off 100+ years of dirt. The next step I did was polishing up all the brass hardware. I couldn't help myself, but I think the end results look spectacular.
A close up of the lens. Note the dile with different size holes. These are the F-stops. The holes are numbered 16, 32?, 64, 128, 256, and 512. There is no shutter. I will have to make a lens cap for it and use it as my shutter.
The lens was made in Boston, Mass. by Andrew J. Lloyd & Co. It's also labeled as "Lloyd Special". I hope this lens will work out perficly for shooting landscapes.