Here is an interesting link I came across for anyone interested in the wet plate process and/or the civil war. This guy works out of Gettysburg, recreating authentic-looking civil war pictures with modern day civil war die-hards. The website includes a neat walk-through of the wet plate process and has two fun galleries (studio and field). Enjoy.
Rob Gibson. Oh yea. He has the technical proficiency that most of the "artistic" wetplate photographers would love. He also has some very well composed and "artistic" shots. I actually own a photo by Gibson taken with friends on the 20th Anniversary of our first trip as high school students to Gettysburg in 1981.
I would take issue with this statement.
He has the technical proficiency that most of the "artistic" wetplate photographers would love
Having seen and compared the work of Gibson with that of Robert Szabo, Nate Gibbons, John Coffer, and even our own Michael Mazzeo, I can not say that he is more "technically proficient". He does however know how to market.
As for the "artistic" wetplate photographers? Sure, his work is "cleaner" than that of Sally Mann, but hey, would you rather own a picture of civil war reenactors or rotting dogs?
I would bet that Kerik Kouklis, who has just started with wet-plate, will be, or already is producing some very fine tins.
I know the work of Szabo and I agree it is good. I have seen Kerik's and I'm impressed by his as well. But Rob Gibson does more than just market. Rob runs a working 1860's style commercial studio. Yes he makes his living that way. Yes he shoots reenactors (he's also a reenactor himself, and worked as a cavalry extra for Buford's unit in "Gettysburg").
My point about his work is that there are no excuses in it. He works in glass, and as far as I'm concerned does it right. Fast, but right.
From a financial standpoint, I would certainly prefer a Mann to a Gibson. However, some of her recent work (which I have seen up close) is inferior to good wetplate technique. Gibson's is not.
I am taken aback by the uninformed and condescending tone of your postings. I don't mean to be confrontational, but your opinion about what is and is not "good wetplate technique" is supported by neither a critical eye nor an educated assumption. Sally Mann's plates are not the result of poor technique. Did you know that when her collodion plates were becoming too clean she started flowing and developing her plates with the opposite hand to maintain the unnerving quality of her images. An artist will use materials to his or her advantage regardless of whether or not it is considered proper technique. Sally Mann has created some of the most haunting collodion images to date and they speak volumes about her subject matter. Her work is not "artistic" (your euphemism), it is art.
Civil War and living history reenactors must, by definition, produce images as they were originally produced. Their interests and incomes rely on historic accuracy, not on pushing the boudaries of the medium. That is not to say their work isn't good or important. There are artists who cross the line through the use of pastiche, but they are few.
My point is, you can't simply dismiss or devalue or even compare people's work unless you understand it. And "good technique"? What is it other than the technique that best expresses your point of view?
Creating technically proficient work is easy, creating art is difficult.
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I don't see anything condescending in my comments. I have followed Mann's work for a number of years. I very much enjoy her landscapes, her familial portraits, and most of "What Remains." However, I have seen the large wetplate prints "up close and personal." I have listened to her recorded artist statements on them. I do not believe that they are her strongest work.
As for understanding work, I find that comment condescending. Pictoralism is art, modernism is art, Ryman is art. And, yes so is Sally Mann. I have studied the battlefields that she shot for more than 25 years. Walked them foot by foot. Photographed them, thought about them, and dealt with the conflicting feelings of beauty and horror. If it pushes the medium to create 5' soft focus, dark enlargements of wetplates, some coated in beeswax, I think that is great. Maybe we are seeing a cyclic return of pictoralism. I leave that for others to determine.
I am impressed with Rob Gibson's day to day work. I am impressed with most of Sally Mann's work. But as for the "unsupported by either a critical eye or an educated assumption," you can mean nothing but a confrontational and condescending attack. And you are quite welcome to that opinion.
I urge everyone to go out and see Mann's work when they get a chance. I urge them to watch the PBS special on her. I urge them to read her books and listen to her artist statement. If they agree that the prints in question are wonderful examples of the medium, great. That does not make the opposing view uninformed or uncritical however.
I read an interview with her in which she refused to say she had mastered the technique, but she made it sound like she would if she could. The one thing she did seem proud of was her ability to coat the plate evenly. I guess she decided at some point after that interview that she shouldn't even do that well!
Originally Posted by madmaz
It seems like she also really, really likes horrible old lenses, which I suspect would provide an unnerving quality to anything....
"I am an anarchist." - HCB
"I wanna be anarchist." - JR
Quite honestly, his website sucks.
The pics are fantastic, interesting and great. his website makes them look like my holga on a bad day.
I can see that. My problem with the site is the Flash requirement. But, I agree that the photos are too small. I don't have a high res scan of the print of the one that I have.
Originally Posted by lulalake
The thing that I do like about the site is the information that he presents. His explanations of the process work well, That was also one of the things I really liked about having him do a portrait. He took the time to talk about the process.
More importantly though, Rob Gibson seemed to enjoy talking about the process. Watching Gibson "flow" the plate may have been the highlight of the session. The actual exposure, 8 seconds I believe, was sort of anti-climactic. The plate preparation, fixing, and varnishing were the fun part for me.
Just visited the site, thanks Dave
I found it very interesting and also facinating and encouraging that Rob is working as a professional in this medium. You do not stay in business with dissatisfied customers, his marketing, promotion and technical skill as well as homage to historical accuracy are to be commended and his reputation as an authority in this field is well founded.
I wonder where he obtained the tripod which supports the large wet plate camera in the field? There is a photo of it. It is mentioned that he uses original equipment, They seem strong enough for heavy loads.....are there manufactures etc