Tuesday, August 13, 2013

RI, CT, Magic Lantern Theatre and more

This update is going to be short and sweet and I hope to keep future ones like it as well.

  After leaving Tim Massie in NY I headed to Matt Wronski in Rhode Island.  I met Matt online in one of the Facebook groups and then in person at the wet plate jamboree at John Coffer’s.  He was very kind to invite me to stay over while I’m on the road and I gladly agreed.
  Matt and his wife Amanda live in East Greenwich and own a restaurant by the name of Tio Mateos where one can have delicious Mexican as well as French cuisine.  Of course what connected Matt and me is our love of collodion process and I was happy to see yet another photographer’s setup.  Matt has a good selection of vintage large format cameras and really does know what he is doing.  Below is a shot of his restaurant with Matt moving too fast for my iPhone to capture him behind the counter and a quick snap of one of his cameras – an 11x14 Century studio camera atop a gorgeous stand.

   Matt also has arranged for a three-way trade involving an 8x10 Century camera and now I am transporting that beast up to Maine to Scott Anton – I love the fact that The Photo Palace Bus is continuing to enable others to pursue their work.  After I left Matt I saw a post on Facebook from him saying that my visit and out location shoot has pushed him to speed up his plans on building his own mobile set for working with collodion on location – Gilli is a great catalyst for such ideas to come to life!
  I spent a couple of nights there.  During the day we went to visit his friends, who fed us a great dinner, and shot a few plates around town.  Here are the fruits of my labor.  I got to say that the images came out a bit less clean than I was hoping for, but I guess sometimes that happens with wet plate and I’ll take it as an opportunity to get better.  An interesting side-note: the town where Matt’s friends live happens to have a graveyard containing the remains of the first pilgrim woman to be born in New England.  We only found that out from a local woman after shooting the cemetery, but I happened to have captured two plates of the obelisk erected for her (apparently I only have one of the plates copied digitally…).
First time in 2013 that I stepped into the Atlantic Ocean!
Water was warm and I wished I had a swim suite with me...

94 years of life for the first woman settler! 
Way to go Elisabeth Pabodie.

Charles the fisherman - charming fella who stopped to chat with Matt and me while we were shooting.

Don't know what happened in the top right of this plate...

And this one went dark for some reason...

Favorite plate of the day - of course it has to be the one that gets scratched in the wash....

Graveyard with Elisabeth's obelisk.
From Rhode Island it was only a short drive down to East Haddam CT where I was looking very much forward to spending time with Terry and Deborah Borton.  They run AmericanMagic Lantern Theatre and Terry was very helpful during the process of me setting up my own show.  He is also a superb showman and I was lucky enough to see one of his performances in San Diego last spring.  He is one of the leading authorities on the medium of Magic Lantern and is currently writing two books on the subject.  Terry is a big fan of the work of one Joseph Beale – an illustrator working for the Briggs company in late 19th century, whose work was reproduced widely in Lantern Slide form and, according to Terry, has been in continuous use for over a century.  In fact, while looking though my collection Terry was quick to find a Beale slide, so I was apparently continuing the on-screen presence of that artist even without explicit knowledge of it.  Beale’s works were copied using wet plate collodion technique well into 1930s and in fact he promoted that fact due to the superb rendition of detail and tones possible with this process.  Not knowing much about the working of wet plate, Terry asked me if during my visit I would demonstrate it to him and I was happy to oblige.
 Needless to say I was extremely happy to have received an invitation to stay with him and was so excited to get there that I didn’t even stop to make any plates on the way, even though it was a gorgeous day.  When I did get there and after a brief lunch with a picturesque view of the Connecticut river I asked Terry and Deborah if I could make a few plates of them while showing Terry how wet plate images were made.  I was in for a treat as Terry and Deborah dress up in period clothes while conducing their shows and so I was able to create following very fancy-looking portraits on their deck.
Deborah and Terry Borton

Deborah the Queen of the Castle

Terry the Researcher.

Magic Lanter

  Terry mentioned that nearby lived a very talented photographer by the name of Jody Dole.  After placing a call to him a meeting was arranged and soon Jody and his youngest son came by to check out the bus.  He seemed rather impressed with Gilli as well as with my most recent plates and invited us over to see his studio the following morning.  I went to sleep rather late due to the fact that the cabin where I was staying contained all sorts of marvelous ephemera related to Magic Lantern and I was browsing books and looking at posters on the walls till well past midnight.
Lunch with a river view.

A sapling of a thorn-less blackberry bush from Borton's garden,
I hope it survives the trip and does well in San Diego

Zoetrope built specifically for Terry and his lectures

Gilli and the Magic Cottage,  the garden in front is rather cool -
a fantastic compilation of knotted wood and mossy pathways.

Manuscript for one of the books by the Bortons - to come out next year.

  Next morning at around 10am we pulled up to Jody’s studio.  Jody is a truly great photographer with commercial work stretching more than three decades back and subject matter ranging widely – all of it being absolutely top-notch.  What hasn’t he shot!  I can’t think of anything…  All of the images I saw during his quick presentation were of the kind of quality that every photographer aspires to put out and his wet plate work was of no lower standard.  Jody and his two sons have learned the process from John Coffer himself, so we had an instant connection through Camp Tintype. As it happens Jody figured out that we had been in contact before.  Apparently two of the twenty or so 4x5 glass plate holder that I sold earlier in the year on eBay went to him – what a small and wonderful world it is!  Our visit with Jody was brief, but powerful - just the inspiration of seeing his work was enough to make me want to do better with every image that I produce…   
  Here are the plates that I made later in the afternoon after taking Gilli around the town of East Haddam.  

  Now I am in a Massachusetts town of Northborough where I am about to go see my lovely grandmother.  Once again, just like last year, we are on the East Coast at the same time and I am looking forward to seeing where our only relatives in US reside. Last year I popped in for a quick visit while they were vacationing in Cape Cod and now I’ll stay the night or two at their home.   I think I’ll get there in time to make a few more plates happen – every day that I don’t shoot I feel like I’m slacking off…

Anton Orlov

1 comment:

  1. What terrific pictures of Debbie and Terry! They shared stories of your visit with great delight. Love the shot of Terry the researcher. little known fact: that thornless blackberry clot to Haddam by way of Arlington, VA, where its parent didn't prosper in the Virginia clay as well as it did in the sandier soil of the Connecticut shoreline. But clearly it travels well, so I hope it flourishes for you!