Cooperative of Photography


The Illusion of Stillness (NSFW)

29.03.2016

Luther Gerlach is an established wet plate collodion photographer who is most noted for his “Mammoth Plate Collodion” tins. Luther has exhibited at the Denver Museum of Art, J. Paul Getty Museum and the Santa Barbara Museum.

We asked Luther to walk us through his “Profolio”…

Luther Gerlach-10

“Water Droplet” 2013

12x20” ambrotype on dark amethyst glass

Sometimes I ask models to do the impossible. Here is an example: Please sit for 10 minutes in a cold mountain stream while I focus the camera, coat the plate, and take the 2-minute exposure. Don’t move.

 

Luther Gerlach-12

“Teal Vase with Cymbidium Orchids” 2003

9x12” ambrotype on cobalt blue glass

The long neck of this beautiful vase enhances the line and shape of the orchids. The body of the vase creates a lens that focuses the fabric background and introduces the source of light I am working with. The focus and sharp lines seen in the vase contrast the image’s overall soft, circular feeling.

Luther Gerlach-13

“Homage to Rodin” 2013

12x18” ambrotype on ruby glass

As soon as I set eyes on this rock, I envisioned a model sitting in a pose reminiscent of Rodin’s sculptures, with the figure emerging from, and still part of, the rock she was sculpted from. I evoked the texture and tonality of marble by choosing a historical lens that creates luminosity.

Luther Gerlach-3

“Lake Havasu” 2005

12x20” tintype

Photographed immediately after sunset in a newly flooded part of the lake, this image required an 8-minute exposure. Despite the illusion of stillness, there was actually a cacophony of hundreds of swallows chasing thousands of mosquitos through the air, which have disappeared into the sky due to the length of the exposure.

Luther Gerlach-4

“Tangled Web of Black Oaks” 2014

18x22” ambrotype on cobalt blue glass

The chaotic, twisting energy of the black oaks is the perfect challenge for my artistic sensibility. By capturing light as it struggles to find its way through the tangle of branches, I evoke the sublimation of chaos into beauty, like light entering into the vaulted ceiling of a gothic cathedral through stained glass windows.

 

Luther Gerlach-5

“Faris Beach” 2015

12x20” tintype 

This is an ‘impossible image’ in the wet plate collodion process. Shooting directly into the light like this world normally overexpose the image to the extent that there would be nothing visible but white light and vague, black silhouettes. It has taken many years of practice to get the amount of detail and control you see in this plate! 

 

Luther Gerlach-6

14x17” ambrotype on black glass 2010

I was attracted to the Victorian sensibility of the garden setting at this Beverly Hills location. With the models, I tried to evoke a sense of playful eroticism, like a neoclassical vision of a cherub whispering in a woman’s ear. 

Luther Gerlach-7

“Nosferatu’s Ship” 2010

22x30” ambrotype on black glass

Photographing a moving object is another ‘impossibility’ in the wet plate process. When I saw this two-masted tall ship, I happened to have a portrait lens with me, which allowed me to capture the vessel in detail, in trade for some pretty heavy vignetting on this large plate. A lovely compromise.

Luther Gerlach-8

“Paris Hotel” 2012 

18x30” ambrotype on black glass

This image is part of a commissioned series for a restaurant at the Paris Las Vegas hotel. The corseted lady is wearing a French Napoleonic Cuirassier helmet from Napoleon’s personal guard. 

Luther Gerlach-9

“Chanon Noel” 2014

18x22” ambrotype on cobalt blue glass

This image is a beautiful example of the characteristic swirling of a Petzval lens. For this shot I used a real treasure from my collection, a 38” Dallmeyer Petzval lens. Made in 1868, this is one of only 30 examples of this lens produced over the course of 30 years. 

Want more? Check out Luther's website. 


Written by Rowynn Dumont


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