"Now, don't move...we're going to try ten seconds."
Ten seconds is a long time not to move. When you're concentrating on not moving- it seems like all you can do is move. Previously imperceptible nuisances all of the sudden come into the forefront of your mind: while you're sitting as still as possible, you can't help but wonder if that was an itch or a bug? I think I might have some grit in my contact...or maybe my contacts are just getting dry because I'm trying to keep my eyes completely still for ten seconds. My weight just shifted, will it ruin the photo?
Finally, the shutter snaps and, like a magician, she wisks a soon-to-be photograph away under a black cloth. Jennifer had set up an ice fishing tent right outside Milton's public restroom on the first floor. She explains that some clever photographer found out that ice fishing tents are pretty much light safe, not to mention easy to set up and extremely portable. She cut up a cheap red plastic poncho and taped it over the clear windows of the tent so she would have some room to work- gingerly shuffling an ordinary glass plate coated in some concoction of magic alchemy between chemicals. A tupperware dish sat in the bathroom sink, running over with cool water.
Joel and I relaxed on the couch in the opposing room. In the anxious still of the morning, we whispered back and forth. Maybe you should have put your legs there- should we change places? You were sitting too far back; I think in the next photo I'll try to smile.
"Do you want to see?"
Jennifer comes out of the tent with a 6x4 pane of cloudy glass and places it in the shallow water. Within minutes, an image begins to appear. "Look! Look!" At first the edges clear, and slowly the cloud lifts leaving shadows of figures- finally, details.
The image is difficult to see, white on clear glass. So Jennifer carefully holds it over a black table top so the contrast is more apparent. By now, she's explained to us what is actually happening- but not being so scientifically inclined, I hear something like "magic magic trickery magic magic silver bath wizardry". I stand there amazed that thinking sometime back in the late 1800s someone figured out this process- equal parts complicated and fickle- by which you could slap some special mixture of chemicals on a piece of glass and create an image. It's incredible!
Jennifer is a skilled modern photographer, but took up creating wet plates/tin types after traveling down south and visiting a friend skilled in this archaic craft. She collected a few tools and joined a small but dedicated group of artists who have kept this mysterious process- so foreign in the times of Photoshop and 60gb SD cards- alive. The medium itself is an exhilarating one to work with; you never know what you will get.