John Brewer ‘in search of lost time 

I visited Dimbola lodge again today on the IOW. I enjoyed John Brewers exhibition of images made by the wet plate process. The photos  had a luminous quality to them that I found smfascinating 

Blurb  from Dimbola website 2016 

The images  explore the connection between the photographer John Brewer’s grandfathers, two men who fought in both world wars. The project came about through  Brewer’s desire to know more about his ancestors, particularly his maternal grandfather. He has drawn inspiration from objects that  belonged to them, or  mementos kept by their descendants, or found objects .Brewer explains: ,’each object, represents a moment of lost time, a tableau from a biographical narrative.” The works evolved from personal narratives evoking the universality of loss during war and reminiscence of family history. Brewer explains: “I’ve tried to give a sense of my appreciation for the importance of the past by weaving mementoes of lost time into the present moment.”

I was fascinated by the look of the images( the above photos don’t really show the luminosity I mentioned )  I needed to look up the ‘wet plate process’ 

 Julia Margaret Cameron used this technique. Dimbola lodge has a permanent exhibition of her work and  mentions that  JMC made  wet plates in her garden shed. 

The process was  invented by Frederic Scott Archer in 1851. He experimented with collodion in the hope of producing a photographic negative on ordinary glass. 

The plates are made by dissolving bromide and iodide salts in collodion . The mixture is poured onto a glass plate, and allowed to sit for a few seconds. The plate is then placed into a solution of silver nitrate  and exposed in a camera while still wet. 

Underexposed very thin negatives look like a good positive if placed on a black background. Photographs on glass with black paint on one side are called ambrotypes and on metal with black varnish called tintype (or Ferrotype). I am not sure which type Brewer used to display his work but this explains the luminous quality I observed . 


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