I would have never imagined myself to fall in love with image-making again. The moment when I saw small collections of the daguerreotypes at the Spitalfield market in 2011, it had roused my curiosity whether if this method of image-making, or the making of image-object is still possible.
My search was for a guru was never too far away. Christopher Brenton West, a daguerreotypist based in Oxfordshire had taught me the ways of the Becquerel Daguerreotype, which had reminded me the long lost love I had with the darkroom, magical and captivating.
I had taken me years to accumulate the gears and most of the time, to study the 19th Century tools’ and apparatuses to based on sketches and applied methods by few known practitioners of today. Not like the modern equivalent of photographic practices, these were not something one could walk-in to a store and buy what one’s need to begin working, as most of it were DIYs; alot of trial and errors.
I am thankful for the available forums and constant updates with practitioners of their opinions and personal experience to deal the predicaments in building the tools and managing them.
In my journey, I had the chance to learn from several other daguerreotypists whom I am proud to have met; Mike Robinson and Jerry Spagnoli. Both with their own distinctive methods in approaching this craft and certainly have their ways of what works best for their practices.
At the same time, I had discovered the Wet Plate Collodion, a thriving community which exists in the virtual world, which I had only to learn from manuals and discovered a humble, knowledgeable master practitioner as well across the pond, Quinn Jacobson. We corresponded via emails, and his experience and willingness to guide had lessen the steep learning curve in learning this craft.
In later stage, I had began to accumulate literatures such the manuals by Quinn Jacobson’s Chemical Pictures; Scully and Osterman Manual; and John Coffer’s, which I knew these would be meaningful for me to venture into as well. Between the two (daguerreotype and the wetplate collodion), both were shared knowledge in principle, though it may be different in methods of making chemically and preparations.
I believe I shared the frustrations with those who practice hands-on application of making images; it is still tedious, meticulous, prone to errors which could be controlled, or not. Yet, it still requires the rigour, which I dearly missed for many years.
In my previous practice, my gripe on DSLRs was the transition from the darkroom to the digital world was just done in rather hasty speed. I had played with various DSLR tools which I began to feel tired catching up with the constant “upgrades” with software and gadgetries which rendered the digital workflow tedious to re-learn all the time. Most likely I never felt too attached to this experience as lesser and lesser requirements needed of me to have an image done. Rather, it was just click and let the tool do most of the work and it happened that I was there to somewhat manage it.
I want to make images. You can’t beat the sound of running water while you are in the darkroom.
This blog site is a part of my journey, alongside with my life partner, Anis Ramzi, who tremendously helped me in experiencing the “daguerrean” and the wet plate journey, and I hope to share with you whenever possible.
-Dr. K. Azril Ismail