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Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Wet-Plate Digital?

In a world of megapixels, bit depths and color spaces, Jody Dole is making art by mixing current photo technology with the state of the art from 1860

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Cowboy Rich photographed at Camp Tintype, Dundee, N.Y., August 2009. Printed on collodion wet-plate tintype via an inkjet film positive from a Nikon D3X original.

It was sometime during the ’80s, with electronic imaging evolving, when I heard about a photographer named Jody Dole, who was doing interesting things with imaging software and Iris printers. Though electronic imaging was in its infancy, this was enough to make me jump into the car, drive to New York and have a look at a photographer’s electronic imaging studio and big Iris prints.

Through film and digital, Dole’s skills stand as testimony to his ability to blend new technologies with the best contemporary tools. His creative efforts span the myriad of spaces where pictures make their place—advertising, photo illustration, studio, still life, marine, landscape, aviation, interiors—just about anywhere the need takes him. His evolving stock work includes a collection of images for business, finance, optics, science, nautical, aviation, summer travels, lifestyle, New England and more. Ever apparent is Dole’s graphic treatment, a point that brings a unique perspective to his work.

J. Dole & Sons advertisement. Camera from the collection of Matthew R. Isenburg. Artwork by Heidi Howard.
DPP featured Dole’s work in a previous article. In that issue, his approach to using film and electronic imaging was highlighted. Dole’s first efforts with digital utilized creative products and systems of the day. It was evident that the trek to success would take time, and it was essential for a digital infrastructure to be developed before success was possible. Dole was at the forefront, he was serious, and he had vision, so he patiently honed his skills. He was preparing to be among the leaders of the pack.

Step forward to 2010, and Dole’s career has, through his pursuit to transform vision into images, driven him to become a 100% true-blue digital photographer, ever experimenting and innovating. He has worked with virtually every Nikon DSLR, including the D3X, and as a result, he’s now shooting almost exclusively with that 24-megapixel flagship camera. But Dole doesn’t just seek out the latest piece of high technology for its own sake. On the contrary, Dole is a renaissance man whose curiosity and creativity drive him to seek out the new and reevaluate the old.

Next Stop: The Wet-Plate Tintype?
How does 1860 technology work out today? “Wet plate has quality unlike anything else,” answers Dole. “You learn that collodian photography takes time and effort, with more to it than meets the eye—do it yourself and get ready to commit to real chemistry.”

The first thing you need to be alert to is, as Dole briefly explains, “the process.” Some of the chemicals are highly poisonous. For example, the fixer must be handled carefully, using protective gloves and goggles because it’s potassium cyanide! “One could use traditional hypo, but cyanide gives a richer result,” says Dole. “And it’s the way it was done in the 19th century. Silver nitrate, the light-sensitive coating, can blind you if it comes in contact with your eyes. Handle it carefully, and wear eye protection.”


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