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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

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Jody Dole and sons Brandon and Sam in their wet-plate darkroom designed for 19th- and 20th-century photo processes, Chester, Conn., 2010. Photo by Abbe Dole.
Digital + Wet Plate = Art
Working on mastering tintype techniques, Dole is now adding digital, and he has discovered all manner and ways to utilize old with new and to make exciting renditions of classic scenes and contemporary scenes with the classic look. Leave it to Dole’s curiosity and creativity, and you’re bound to see something different. He’s deeply involved with imaging software and has discovered a creative outlet in experimenting with filter tools, in general, and in particular, with tools that enable creative rendering of black-and-white and tinted grayscale images. He’s making tintype renderings of his digital images!

Considering the time-intensive tintype process, Dole’s approach evolved by adding today’s practical advantages. In addition to making tintypes using his antique wood tripod-mounted, 19th-century cameras, he does make lots of digital images, of course, and is in constant search of subjects that can be presented in “tintype-like” rendering. To facilitate this, he has adapted his photography “to a blending of digital and tintype technologies,” he says.

Using his original tintype plates, Dole scans them and brings them into the computer where he applies 21st-century Adobe Photoshop and Nikon Capture NX 2 digital processing to make prints, being careful to render the image so that it faithfully emulates the original tintype image, or very close to it. And adding a personal touch, plus drawing from his personal experience from tintype work, he can take original digital images and render them as he sees fit. It’s a beautiful thing to see.

“Wet plate is a language of photography that’s hardly spoken these days,” says Dole. It’s clear that his love, passion, skill, motivation and devotion to creativity drive his continuous experimenting. Dole’s quick to quip, “The best tool in the tintype darkroom is the garbage pail. I use it a lot!”

Describing his images that find their way to the wall instead of the garbage, Dole says, “There’s a quiet beauty about the image. It’s from the subjects and the techniques. There’s control of tonality through the computer, the ability to control an image and give a client what they want. That wasn’t as possible in the old [wet-plate] technology, but it is with today’s digital.”

So there’s a hint as to where Dole is going with this and how he plans to apply his experience to his business. “I don’t know if there’s a big market for this, but I’m going to show it in my portfolio and on my website and stock site,” he says. “How will the technology evolve for me? I intend to make studio and outdoor pictures as I do almost every day. I’ll keep learning and enjoying the process, and that may be enough. My boys think this is cool, and they’re really interested in it, so that alone is a bonus. Not everything I learn has to become work.”

And so, Dole’s passion and inner satisfaction seem to be the driving force. When Dole’s passionate, don’t get between him and the objective!

To see more of Jody Dole’s photography, visit www.jodydole.com.


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