The Lifers Project

My journey to document Lifers and the spots they have created... Using the wet plate collodion process from the 19th Century.
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Matt Alberts
Photography
Denver, Colorado
United States
2 Team Members

Update October 29th 2013

Thank you to those that have supported the project! We are departing for the first leg of the journey november 2nd so stay tuned for updates! 
The crowd funding campaign is over but you can still support the project and purchase the perks that I have listed below here http://thelifersproject.bigcartel.com/
Thank you!
-Matt 


Introduction:

My name is Matt Alberts. I'm a photographer/artist, originally from Philadelphia. I currently live in Denver, Colorado.

This project is a combination of my passion for photography and skateboarding. Discouraged by the meaninglessness of most digital images, a desire grew inside of me to create something authentic. I wanted to be more involved with the process. I wanted to be back in the darkroom and working with my hands. I wanted to remove myself from the virtual world of digital photography.

Some people say that making a person's portrait in wet collodion can capture their soul. At least that's what the Native Americans of the 19th Century believed. And some people today believe it, too.

The process was invented in 1851 and revolutionized photography. With its sensitivity to UV light and long exposure times, wet collodion has the ability to see beneath the skin, revealing character and depth.

To have a wet collodion portrait taken has always been a luxury. When the process became popular, it would typically cost three to six month's salary to have a portrait made on glass... Far less than commissioning a painting, but still very expensive. It was often the only photograph people had of themselves or their family. The process is very stable, images made in the 1850s and 1860s look as good today as the day they were made.

I first saw wet collodion photographs visiting my grandparents at their shore house on the Chesapeake Bay. When I was younger I didn't understand the technical portion of the process but knew that my great-great-grandfather, Lowell Gilmore, had a photography studio in New York. where he made wet collodion portraits.

      

Above Left: Lowell Gilmore and his wife Emma Gilmore 1857 | Albumen print made from a wet collodion negative. Above Right: Lowell Gilmore 1854 | Tintype.

Last year, I was feeling dissatisfied with digital photography. Photography for me, began in the darkroom, a very real experience. I missed that connection. I've made resin prints but I wanted to make more. I came across the wet collodion process. I was intrigued that people were still working in this process. It allowed me to identify the types of photographs Lowell Gilmore had left behind, too.

In February, 2013, I was introduced to Quinn Jacobson in Denver, Colorado (Studio Q). Quinn is known internationally as an artitst and master of the process. I took his course and was immediately hooked. After the course, Quinn began mentoring me. I was spending as much time as I could in the studio learning the intricacies of the process. I learned about the chemistry, the gear, the techniques, and, needless to say, I was making a lot of photographs.

I began making positives on black glass, aluminum, and negatives. A negative is on clear glass and can be used multiple times to make various kinds of contact prints, or POP (Printing Out Paper) prints. My personal favorite is making Collodion-Chloride prints; I like the way they are applied to the paper with their glossy finish. And Collodion-Chloride prints are the most archival prints of the 19th century.

Using my savings, I bought the best equipment available. I purchased an 11" x 14" handmade Chamonix view camera, a few antique brass lenses from the 19th century, and a large format tripod made by Reis Tripods in Seattle, Washington. I've invested in all the necessary chemistry to get started. I also purchased a 1973 Airstream Land Yacht so I can have a mobile darkroom and make wet collodion photographs anywhere.

In search of inspiration and ideas to compile a collection of work, I looked to what I love, skateboarding. I'd been taking portraits of friends and had Chet Childress come to the studio. Chet is an artist and skateboarder and it was the photos of him that inspired the Lifers project.

Madness Tryptic | whole plate black glass ambrotypes. 

Check out this piece that the Skater Atlas recently did on Chet.

Part #1 Route 66 Trip 

The first leg of the Lifers project is a trip from Denver, Colorado on the historic Route 66 to California. 

Photographer / Airstream  Captain: Matt Alberts

Tour guides: Chet Childress, Joe Fro Fernandez

Documenting everything: Mike Peterson

We will travel along the historic Route with stops in Albuquerque, NM, Flagstaff, AZ, and other spots along the way to meet Lifers and document them in their environment. 

I will be taking photos and Mike will be capturing the entire trip on film so we can share our journey in a short web series. 

The end result is to have an exhibition where I will display 25-30 of the images from the first leg of the tour. All of the images in the show will be the original plates and prints. In my perks I will be offering digital reproductions of the image from the show on high quality Ink jet paper. As well as the opportunity for people to purchase one off reproductions from the negatives created for the show. Reproductions will be limited.

Where is the money going?

  1. - New plumbing in the airstream. $3,495.00
  2. - Perk production. $4,252.00
  3. Chemistry and Silver. $3,750.00
  4. - Aluminum and Glass. $1,000.00
  5. - Gas and Travel. $3,000.00

Blast Air and Fight Cancer!

In memory of our friend Dave Tuck who recently passed away from cancer. I will be donating a percentage of the proceeds from this project to our friends at Strap in for Life. Check out their site and show your support... Blast Air and Fight Cancer! 

Perks

Madness Collab shirt.

After Hoodie                                                             Lifers Beanie 


Collodio-Chloride Prints 

The Collodio-Chloride emulsion is hand poured onto 17" x 22" Acid free Baryta paper. Once the emulsion is dry the Collodion negative is placed emulsion side down and sandwiched into a contact printer. Once taken out into the sun the image will be printed out onto the paper. It is then washed, fixed and gold toned. After drying the prints will be pressed flat, signed dated and numbed. Prints limited to 25.   

        

 

Tintype Test Plate.

Below is an example of the tintype test plates I will be offering. This 8.5 x 6.5 test plate was created during the filming of the lifers video to test composition and exposure before I poured the larger 11 x 14 glass negative. These one of a kind plates will be created at every new location of the Lifers tour. Each plate will be singed and dated on the back with a not from the location. 

 Please follow my journey and stay tuned for gallery opening details.

Thank you for you support!

-Matt Alberts

Find This Campaign On
$1,293USD
raised in 2 months
5% funded
No time left
$25,000 USD goal
Flexible Funding This campaign has ended and will receive all funds raised.
Campaign Closed
This campaign ended on October 28, 2013
Select a Perk
  • $10USD
    Lifers Sticker

    Black and white 5x7 Sticker with the Lifers logo and good karma ;)

    2 out of 500 claimed
    Estimated delivery: November 2013
  • $25USD
    Lifers Beanie

    Black - - Super Warm 100% Acrylic Construction - One size fits all - LIFERS embroidery - Made & in the USA - Unisex Garment - 1 of 200Pcs

    4 out of 200 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $35USD
    5 x 7 Inkjet Reproduction

    5 x 7 Inkjet reproduction of one of the images from the Lifers gallery opening. Each print will be signed on the back

    4 out of 100 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $37USD
    Madness Collab T Black - LG

    Size LG - - Printed on Ultra soft American Apparel Tee's - 100% Cotton Fine Knit Jersey Construction - Durable Rib Neckband - Sublimated Photo real print - Made & Printed in the USA - Unisex Garment - 1 of 48 Pcs

    1 out of 48 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $37USD
    Madness Collab T Black - MD

    Size MD - - Printed on Ultra soft American Apparel Tee's - 100% Cotton Fine Knit Jersey Construction - Durable Rib Neckband - Sublimated Photo real print - Made & Printed in the USA - Unisex Garment - 1 of 48 Pcs

    1 out of 48 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $37USD
    Madness Collab T White - XL

    Size XL - - Printed on Ultra soft American Apparel Tee's - 100% Cotton Fine Knit Jersey Construction - Durable Rib Neckband - Sublimated Photo real print - Made & Printed in the USA - Unisex Garment - 1 of 48 Pcs

    0 out of 48 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $37USD
    Madness Collab T White - XL

    Size XL - - Printed on Ultra soft American Apparel Tee's - 100% Cotton Fine Knit Jersey Construction - Durable Rib Neckband - Sublimated Photo real print - Made & Printed in the USA - Unisex Garment - 1 of 48 Pcs

    0 out of 48 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $37USD
    Madness Collab T Black - XL

    Size XL - - Printed on Ultra soft American Apparel Tee's - 100% Cotton Fine Knit Jersey Construction - Durable Rib Neckband - Sublimated Photo real print - Made & Printed in the USA - Unisex Garment - 1 of 48 Pcs

    0 out of 48 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $37USD
    Madness Collab T White - LG

    Size LG - - Printed on Ultra soft American Apparel Tee's - 100% Cotton Fine Knit Jersey Construction - Durable Rib Neckband - Sublimated Photo real print - Made & Printed in the USA - Unisex Garment - 1 of 48 Pcs

    0 out of 48 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $75USD
    11 x 14 Inkjet Reproduction

    11 x 14 Inkjet reproduction of one of the images from the Lifers gallery opening. Each print will be signed on the back

    1 out of 100 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $80USD
    After Hooded Sweat Black Xl

    Size XL - - Premium soft heavyweight fabric and generous fit for the utmost comfort. - fleece lined hood, heavy gauge round drawcord with nickel eyelets, and 1x1 ribbing at cuffs and waistband. - 10 oz pre-laundered 80% cotton 20% polyester blend fleece - Split stitch double needle sewing on all seams - Twill neck tape - Unisex Garment - 1 of 48 Pcs

    0 out of 48 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $80USD
    After Hooded Sweat Black LG

    Size LG -- Premium soft heavyweight fabric and generous fit for the utmost comfort. - fleece lined hood, heavy gauge round drawcord with nickel eyelets, and 1x1 ribbing at cuffs and waistband. - 10 oz pre-laundered 80% cotton 20% polyester blend fleece - Split stitch double needle sewing on all seams - Twill neck tape - Unisex Garment - 1 of 48 Pcs

    1 out of 48 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $125USD
    Tintype test plate

    Every time I set up on a new location I will be making a 8.5 x 6.5 test plate on black aluminum to test composition and exposure before I pour the lager 11 x 14 plates. These one of a kind tintypes will be signed and dated on the back with a note of the location.

    2 out of 35 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $125USD
    Tintype test plate

    Every time I set up on a new location I will be making a 8.5 x 6.5 test plate on black aluminum to test composition and exposure before I pour the lager 11 x 14 plates. These one of a kind tintypes will be signed and dated on the back with a note of the location.

    1 out of 35 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $250USD
    Photo Book

    Hard backed high quality bound book of all 25 of the finial images in the gallery opening. All books signed and dated.

    0 out of 250 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
  • $1,200USD
    Collodio-Chlloride Print

    One of the 11x14 glass negatives from the gallery opening. Printed out on 17"x 22" Archival Baryta paper and gold toned. These reproductions will be limited to 5 per image. All images will be signed dated and numbered.

    0 out of 25 claimed
    Estimated delivery: December 2013
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