A Truck-Sized Camera Takes 1850s Photography Methods on the Road

By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

Ian Ruhter's truck is a mobile camera and darkroom, an updated version of one of the earliest photography setups. Using a wet plate collodion process, he focuses light through a massive lens directly onto a giant, silver plate, and then douses it in chemicals to develop the image on the spot. There's no negative, no paper, just a single, labor-intensive image captured on a metal sheet. The resulting photos are striking, rich with luminous detail and the painterly imperfections of the chemical process. 

The photographs, mostly portraits, are part of Ruhter's inspirational quest to give a voice to the fears and dreams of people across America. In this spirit, the short documentary below talks to both the artist and his portrait subjects about challenges, hopes, and personal experiences. The film was directed by Ruhter and Lane Power, who encourage fans to join their journey via Facebook and other social media.

Another short documentary from Ruhter focuses a little more on the photographic technique, below:

You can check out more of Ruhter's photographs on his website and blog, and learn more about the wet-plate technique in this recent profile in Photo District News

Via Jordan McGarry

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/archive/2012/11/a-truck-sized-camera-takes-1850s-photography-methods-on-the-road/265650/