Here are some more plates from my dark-box test session. They have been flat copied in the field, not scanned.
I have posted these plates above the original scene for comparison, as when I made them I was struck by the scale of the transformation undergone by the subject in rendering it in monochrome and by reversing them laterally. The subject here is very familiar to me, I see it everyday on my way to feed the chickens. The subjects, transformed by the camera innately, appear familiar and yet strange. Is this a kind of the defamiliar? I think it is and yet obviously it will only appear defamiliar if the original scene is familiar to the viewer, potentially limiting it’s usefulness to iconic subjects.
On writing the post it occurs to me that I could use Photoshop to reverse the image and give a direct comparison. I suspect that the resulting image will look like the original familiar scene with the wet plate filter applied and will be devoid of interest on this matter.
Not for the first time I am charmed by, wet plate because, viewed as a traditional technique which attaches it to veracity in the eyes of the layman, it is able to lie very gently as a result and with impunity. In this case poor old straight photography is more accurate to the scene and yet less believed and certainly less interesting.
I wonder about the potential of exploring this phenomena in portraiture, where it will become subtle, more difficult to detect and more powerful as a result. Certainly this answers the need for an iconic/familiar subject. I assume at this point it is a significant component of the allure of wet plate portraits. Who knows, deliberate or innate lateral reversal in both versions of the medium may even be the answer for sitters who don’t like pictures of themselves.
Conversely, in Forget Me Not, Geoffrey Batchen’s analysis of early portraiture. Vernacular images of family members were adorned with objects such as the sitters hair and coloured in order to increase the evidential nature of the image, to make the picture more like the sitter, to increase the indexicality of the image. Was it then presumably not as subtle a phenomena back in the day and one that eroded the power of the image as a likeness. To the extent that it was felt to need the adornment. Straight photography more accurate to the scene and more believed and more interesting?
This surely reveals something about then and now. A time where images were rare and precious compared to one where images are ubiquitous, extremely familiar and the subject of what it breeds as a result?