Ken Miner shows his wet plate process during the Stinking Fish Studio Tour.

Ken Miner shows his wet plate process during the Stinking Fish Studio Tour.

Far from the maddening crowd

Time stands still for wet plate photographer Ken Miner

Early photographers using the wet plate process to take pictures often travelled with a wagon load of  equipment. While most photographs in the 1850s were taken in a studio, the adventurous and curious travelled to the battle field to document the American Civil War through photography. These were not action shots, but perfectly still shots.

Invented in 1851, the method, called the wet plate collodion process, was a step up from the lengthier process used previously.

Ken Miner is stepping back in time and capturing the beauty of tintype photographs. He doesn’t travel with a wagon but he does travel in a van, which is also his darkroom.

“All the magic happens in there,” said Miner.

Miner uses an old box camera, the type you see in old photographs where the photographer has his head under a dark cloth. The subject is still and posed.

Miner said he wanted to go back to hands-on photography because it “gets a piece of me in it.”

There is a chemistry that happens between the camera and the subject matter.

An old timer showed him a 112-year-old box camera and he fell in love with it, had to have it.

That’s where it all began for Miner. The attention to fine detail, the chemistry, the magic that happens when elements are combined to produce a one-off photograph on an aluminum plate.

“Somehow it makes sense to me to compose upside down and backwards,” said Miner when explaining the image he first sees.

This is his art form. His art won him the award for Best Photography at the 2103 Sooke Fine Arts Show. His image of a blossom captures the essence of the antique photo making process.

The images he creates cannot be duplicated, which makes them unique in today’s world. No digital process can capture the capriciousness of the wet plate method. It goes back to the roots of photography.

“I’m creating a piece of film onto a plate and that’s the photo,” said Miner. And he does it all out of the back of his van. The method is complex and fascinating and produces archival images where missteps can add to the allure of the tintype,transporting the viewer to another time and place.

Miner’s website: www.zuludog.ca shows the types of photos he takes.

Miner is also a K9 photographer and dog care provider.

Miner will be sharing studio space with potter Ann Semple of Clayfoot Crockery (number 12 on the map) during the Stinking Fish Studio Tour running from July 24-28. He will be demonstrating his art from July 25-27.

The Stinking Fish Studio Tour features 20 studios scattered from East Sooke, through Metchosin and into Sooke. There is no cost to the tour and art lovers are encouraged to get the map and take a long and lovely self-guided road trip to visit all of the studios. One can expect to view everything from pottery to paintings, metal, woodworking, weaving, fibre and jewelry from some of the area’s finest artists.

For more information, go to: www.stinkingfishstudiotour.com or call 250-474-2676.

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