Victoriana and Historic Process Ambrotypes


Loosing Identity: Digital Studies for Ambrotype Triptych
Copyright 2013 Mary Yates

The Finer Things:
Digital Study for Ambrotype
Copyright 2013 Mary Yates
To create this work I used a marriage of modern and historic techniques. My Ambrotype is a late 1800's photographic process similar to the tintype with the main characteristic difference being the use of glass instead of metal as the support material for the emulsion. These ambrotypes were created using what is known as the dry-plate method which became fashionable after the earlier wet plate method. Early photographers viewed dry plate as a breakthrough because it made for a less temperamental process with similar visual qualities. The process starts with image capture using a DSLR camera. The images here are from staged studio shoots as well as gathered from the Museum of Natural History in Berlin. I'm a big fan of theater and that is reflected in the Victorian props and costumes used for the photographs. For me, the paradoxes of the private vs public and social restrictions in Victoriana fit well with the exploration of gender and identity and the photographic process itself.
Shadow Self
Digital Study for Ambrotype
Copyright 2013 Mary Yates
Ambrotype is a direct positive process so I first printed these images on a transparency film to use in the exposure of the plates. The glass is thoroughly cleaned and then a thin coating of gelatin is applied and allowed to dry. Next, a layer of silver nitrate photo emulsion is heated and poured over the gelatinized plate. Once the plate is dry it is exposed using a direct positive contact printing method. The plate could also be exposed using a large format camera though that is not the process I use. Once the plate is exposed it is processed in a reversal developer that develops only the lighter areas leaving the dark glass exposed to form the shadow values in the image. The last steps involve applying a UV inhibitor and clear lacquer to protect the surface of the plate.
One of the qualities I love about working in the ambrotype process is the way the photograph becomes a dimensional object. Working with stained glass and the mounting materials which include velvet, antique photo cases, or repurposed frames allows the photograph to acquire weight and assert itself into physical space. This creation of an object that can be considered "precious" or "finer" also seemed interesting when juxtaposed with then non-traditional subject matter.

The Gentle Art of Taxidermy II
Digital Study for Ambrotype
Copyright 2013 Mary Yates

Bourbon and the Moon


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I am thrilled to have been asked to create the cover photo illustration for the LEO Bourbon Issue! Not only am I connoisseur of the wonderful Kentucky made spirit (for a list of my favorites look lower in the post) but I got to have a lot of fun and creative freedom with this. 


Cover for Leo Weekly Bourbon Issue - March 13, 2013
Cover for Leo Weekly Bourbon Issue - March 13, 2013


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As many of you know, I have always enjoyed the aesthetic movements of the late 18 and early 1900s and this illustration embodies everything that I love about that sense of history coupled with modern interpretations. My visual inspiration comes from the old pictures from the 20's women sitting on papier-mâché moon studio props. There are a lot of these images around so interpreting a classical image concept presented in a modern medium struck a cord with me. 
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For a great post showcasing some of these historic moon images, visit: Moicani – L’Odeonie

Scroll down from some of the better historic photo examples.



Once I had conceptualized the image and thought about how I would do it I started to think about who my moon woman would be. I not only wanted a woman who would put up with my fussy photo shoots, but also one who embodied a 21st century sense of “modernism”. A woman who no holds barred represented strength, style, and push this beyond a cheesy holiday park souvenir to something that spoke to the strength and grace that I observe in the great women I know.


Woman in the Moon
Bourbon and the Moon - photo illustration sans text

Almost immediately I thought of Alysen Waterson-Davis who is a former member of the roller derby team DCRG, an army accountant, photographer, and mother. The reason I emphasize finding the right person is because I have always seen the model/photographer relationship to be one of collaboration. I have always felt that that was key to having a good photography session. If you can't get in sync with the model or he or she doesn't get the vibe of the narrative the photos are going to be crap. 

I'm very happy with the entire process. Every element of this fell in place and I have gotten great feedback on this cover so I wanted to share a tiny bit on my process and the art of collaboration. Its been a grand time from start to finish, so thanks to the LEO and Alysen for the inspiration.

That Bourbon List:

Truly there are a lot of Kentucky Bourbons, and there are a lot of varieties these days (small batch, single barrel, special age, etc. etc.) The ones listed below are just some of my favorites of what I've had recently. Give them a try if you get a chance.

  • Black Maple Hill - super delicious, peppery and rich - very small batch currently out of stock everywhere I've checked but if it comes back around Get Some! and then invite me over.
  • Bulleit 10-year - nice oak and slight spicy vanilla taste - this are smaller batch too but you can find them. Their regular verity, simply called Bulleit, is quite wonderful too - spicy rye ultra smooth
  • Elijah Craig 12-year - slightly more floral than the previous - easy to find and affordable!
  • Other delicious bourbons:  Blanton's Single Barrel, Four Roses Small Batch, Booker's, Knob Creek, and Pappy VanWinkle if you can find/afford it.

Fallen

This image is my most recent Photoshop manipulation. The image of Terry was shot while she was laying on the grass and the water, clouds, and flower are all shot at different times. I'm still playing with the color, I like it in full shocking, vibrant hues as well as completely in gray scale. I think it works both ways. The posting here is a compromise between the two extremes. I like the idea of living between worlds. In the fall this is the moment where you are free from the constraints from what came before as well as what's to come. It's the moment that is in flux, a space where potential exists in both how we view the past and what we imagine for the future.