All images by Mélanie-Jane Frey. Used with permission.
Photographer Mélanie-Jane Frey shoots portraits using the wet plate collodion process. “After 15 years of photojournalism I came to a point where I really needed to give more space to my creativity and my sensitivity.” she tells the Phoblographer. “I am still very convince news photographers are so important for the world’s sake. Without pictures to witness what’s happening in the world there would be no voice to the victims over the powerful, but what I need in my life and what I believe the world is missing is more beauty.”
But for Ms. Frey, she needed a creative outlet from her creative outlet. That’s why she got into the collodion process–because it’s slow and handmade. Plus, to her, it’s fun.
Part of that fun came to her while working on her project called “Orchestra.” An accident with developer fluid created an effect on the images that looks like a cellist is actually playing. On March 31st, she swill be showing off the images at the concert hall “Salle Cortot” in Paris.
Phoblographer: So what exactly happened in these images? You say that the developer went crazy, but it also looks like an amazing long exposure effect.
Mélanie-Jane: You can see a very special effect on those plates, not at all what I expected during my shooting. It was like my chemicals were going wild!!!
At the last shooting I first thought it was the Nitrate bath going wrong and did its total maintenance. Then this day when I tried again, these “waves” were still appearing, and on this plate particularly spectacularly!!!!
Phoblographer: You were shooting these images with a wet plate collodion process. Are you ultimately happy with the results? They look very artistic.
Mélanie-Jane: The effect was very interesting for I was trying through the slow process of Collodion to give the impression to hear the music from the instrument. This is the first part of a big project with musical instruments. I am aiming to have enough instruments to be able to call the body of work “Orchestra” at the end.
These waves can suggest the waves of sound and even if I was a bit frustrated at once because it was not what I expected to suit with the beginning of the series, it is finally now the most interesting part of it!
Phoblographer: What gear did you use and what were your exposures?
Mélanie-Jane: I was shooting here with a 8×10 Toyo field camera and a Petzval, ca. 300mm, and around f3.8. I used for lights 3 falcon eyes LHD B928 heads and another light facing the instrument to have a good reflection on it as that is the only thing I want sharp in the picture–and the musician I want them to move around it but on each picture I want the instrument to be still. This will be the protocol I think I will have for every other instrument in the future.
We had an exposure of 20 seconds around during which my model was supposed to take 2 or 3 different positions, moving a very little bit to still have a good sharpness on every gesture and also the feeling of the musician playing.
I tried to understand what happened and realize it was the developer going wild or “anarchistic” as I said on my FB page trying to be humoristic – because I changed every products one by one on the other pictures and when I used a different developer, the problem was solved.
I ask some better collodion technical experts friends around to have an idea about what changed about this developer which was fine until that moment and it seems it was the lack of ethanol that prevented the developer to go uniformly on the plate.
I know the effect is reproducible as you play with old developers. I am also sure there are so many other “accidents” or “effects” to discover and to play with, intentionally or not, to go deeper in an artistic expression with wet plate collodion photography.