In the Gallery
This exhibition of Michael Kolster‘s wet plate collodion ambrotype photographs depict two series of works, one featuring abstracted tangles of binding ribbons and one collecting clichéd phrases, typeset in a similar tangle. Kolster shoots each unique glass plate in his studio and presents them both as layered pair glass images in front of black velvet and as large format digital prints.
“These free-standing pairs of glass plate photographs and digital prints made from scans of the plates promote serendipitous encounters at the intersection of image and object, of process and product. As the paired plates are viewed from different angles their appearance shifts, causing a reconsideration of what is actually there. Allowing wonder and discovery to result from incidental realignments of habitual responses to the world is a primary concern of these pieces.
The pieces included here pair photographs of nylon strapping taken against a dark background and tonally reversed photographs of letters forming pat phrases. The choice to depict these mundane, throwaway items and phrases is meant to draw attention to their formal qualities and interactions when viewed in three dimensions as sculpture and displayed alongside larger prints of the same.
Referred to as ambrotypes, the photographs are made with a nineteenth-century process on glass plates. I first started making ambrotypes as I photographed American rivers, specifically the Androscoggin here in Maine, the James River in Virginia and the Schuylkill in Pennsylvania. I became intrigued with how the wet plate process referenced both the dynamic and shifting nature of the subject of flowing water and how the history of industrialization of our rivers parallels the history of photography.
During the colder months when shooting outdoors with this cumbersome process was not possible (the chemicals I use on site require temperatures higher than 50 degrees Farenheit), I began to work indoors photographing various items I have been collecting and playing with phrases that pepper conversations I overhear and have come to infect my own speech. The particular qualities of the ambrotype, especially how it is simultaneously a negative and a positive and how it presents a hybrid of image and object, caused me to experiment with pairing the plates on shelves and to incorporate the making of larger scale digital prints into this antiquated process.
Presented here as both plates and prints they inhabit a liminal position, wholly analogue and halfway between the handmade and industrial. When stacked vertically in pairs they hold a simultaneous experience of opacity and translucence, of flatness and depth, as light passes through and reflects patterns of silver on their surfaces. The plates themselves reference conventional photographs with their rich descriptive detail yet remain distinct with their heft and presence as unique objects, while the prints bring 21st-century digital technology into conversation with one of photography’s earliest processes.”