Creating glass plate negatives

Captured on glass Part 3

Black and white negative of woman sitting on chair in garden.

Photograph in the style of the Specials, in negative. Photo Holly Schulte © Sydney Living Museums

Photography practitioners today are rediscovering historical, analogue photography processes. This includes the creation of silver gelatin glass plate negatives, known as the dry plate process.

While dry plates are no longer available for sale, they can be handmade, exposed and processed similarly to photographers of the past.

Recently I had the opportunity to hand-make silver gelatin dry plate negatives with Ellie Young, an Australian expert in alternative photographic processes. Ellie shares her expertise at Gold Street Studios in Trentham, Victoria, where she operates darkrooms, workshops and an exhibition space dedicated to specialist photographic processes. I spent a day learning how to create, expose and process dry plate negatives.

We started with a piece of glass, which we prepared, coated, exposed and processed resulting in negatives ready for printing. The experience demonstrated both the camera craft required to obtain a well-focused, correctly exposed negative as well as the practical and technical knowledge needed for darkroom processing and mixing chemicals.

This image gallery illustrates the main steps in turning a piece of glass into an exposed and processed dry plate negative.

About the author

Portrait of woman against background of prickly pear foliage.

Holly Schulte

Curator

As Curator of Digital Assets, Holly combines her interests in photography, history and digital imaging technologies.