Imagine, the next image you post online will take more than 15 minutes to process, and includes some well-timed chemistry. In an era of the ubiquitous Instagram moments, and silly duck lips, the art of creating a fine art portrait has all but disappeared, and has been replaced with cell phones, selfie sticks, and obnoxious filters. In fact, anyone with a digital camera these days believes that they are the next Ansel Adams. What really separates a digiphile from the Greats, however, is having an understanding of the burden of photography and having the skill to capture a single, magical moment with one simple click.
It takes real skill to create emotional photography, and the process is difficult. But the photographer, Ed Ross is always up to the challenge. His talent and unique approach to the craft has earned him a respectable place among the most creative and innovative photographers out there. Although Ross’ landscapes are among the most beautiful, it’s his dedication and perspective on erotic portraiture that goes beyond anything familiar. Anyone that does not know of Ed Ross would probably place his work toward the end of 19th century. The fact is that these images were created several years ago, and the seductive, vintage feel to them is what makes Ed Ross’s work brilliantly spectacular.
The secret behind the erotic works of Ed Ross is the specific process of wet plate, a.k.a Collodion, which Ross has perfected and used to his advantage. This complex photographic process, invented by an English sculptor Frederick Scott Archer, dates back to 1851 and wasn’t planned to be recognized as a patent. In fact, Archer died in extreme poverty and an obituary described him as “a very inconspicuous gentleman, in poor health.” There are two “types” of wet plate photography — Ambrotype and Tintype. An ambrotype, which was described by Archer, is based on glass, while a tintype is based on metal. You may recognize the style from history books; tintypes create haunting, expressive portraits reminiscent of a bygone era, and a time when imperfections were fully embraced.
To create these unique portraits, Ross works with both a half-plate box style, and bellow style camera, and makes use of period lenses from the 1800s for an aesthetic, that is altogether, authentic and transformative. Ross typically shoots for about three hours and creates about 4 images per hour. He finds this entire process way more engaging than film or digital because both artist and subject are required to remain still for a period of time, thus creating emotions that the camera quickly captures.
Plus, he enjoys creating from start to finish. To make a plate, he begins with a piece of blackened metal, pours collodion (comprised of gun cotton, ether, alcohol, and salts) onto the plate, waits until the alcohol and ether have almost entirely evaporated, dunks the plate into a solution of silver water, exposes the plate in-camera, develop with ferrous sulfate, fix the image with potassium cyanide or hypo, and then varnish the plate once dried. In the end, he is able to physically hold the image. The whole process, in itself, is an artistic expression, and with techniques like that, who needs an Instagram filter.
Learn more about Ed Ross: Tintype Erotica and see his work here.