Ian Ruhter - Wet Plate Collodion Genius
Ian Ruhter is a fine art photographer, making portraits and exploring the landscape using the wet plate collodion process, who has become internationally known for creating the world's largest photographs with this historical medium. He spent his youth growing up with learning disabilities, and found reading and writing to often be problematic. At the age of 25 he discovered photography and quickly realized that it could be a powerful means of communication that could provide him a voice in ways that he hadn’t had in the past. As he learned about photography and progressed his skills with the medium, he began to think that using it as a means to make a living would benefit him by allowing him to both express himself and provide for his life.
At first Ian worked in the commercial photography industry, acquiring clients like Vans, the skate shoe and apparel company. However, building and running a successful commercial practice became a more unfulfilling endeavor over time, and Ian began to explore other options within the photographic industry. Creativity and uniqueness became something for him to now set his sights on. On Ian’s search for a creative and unique outlet he soon discovered the wet plate collodion process, a 19th century photographic process using raw materials, such as silver nitrate, to make your own light sensitive film to coat either a metal or glass plate - with those on metal known as tintypes, and those on glass as ambrotypes. After working with this process for a time Ian decided to put all of his commercial work behind him and dedicate his energies to working in this medium, dubbing his new project, Silver & Light.
Soon into his work with wet plate photography Ian decided that the ordinary size of his plates were to small for his big ideas. He soon set off to create not just a massive camera, but a darkroom space large enough to develop them. With his father’s help, Ian created one of the largest camera’s ever made out of a UPS sized deliver truck bought at auction. Ian now travels the world taking on special projects in the pursuit of his passion. Some such places of interest have sent him into photographic hallowed ground, by spending some concentrated time photographing in Yosemite and walking in the footsteps of so many distinguished photographers before him. Another significant trip sent him to Monument Valley, after a call from The Travel Channel suggested filming him and his work while making plates there. He has also traveled to the UAE to make plates in Dubai during the Exposure Photography Festival, shipping his plates, gear, and chemistry over seas into the Middle East. Everything except his camera truck was sent, resulting in crates weighing 4000 pounds being transported to the festivals location. Once there, Ian discovered that driving a truck large enough to shoot the plates he wanted to make required an official police escort everywhere he went. You can read more about Ian’s adventures with his one of a kind camera truck right here on Analog Forever Magazine.
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