Photographs from a bygone era?
Well, actually they were taken just last year.
The process, though, dates back to at least a century. It is called the wet-collodion process and it was widely used during the late 19th century. Today, only a handful still practices the craft around the world.
In Asia, Bangkok-based Filipino photographer Nico Sepe is one of them.
Wet-plate collodion process was discovered in the 1850s by an Englishman named Frederick Scott Archer. It is a process wherein certain chemicals are mixed to make a light sensitive surface, which can either be glass, tin or acrylic, and the subject’s image is made to register on the surface through long exposures. This became more popular after the Daguerrotype process because this was, back then, less cumbersome. The process was used until the end of the 19th century, then dry plate was discovered, and then the film that we are using now.
Sepe left the Philippines and settled in the United Kingdom in 2002 with his young family but continued to work freelance and mounted exhibitions in the countries they based in. In 2006, they moved to Sri Lanka where she accompanied his wife who works as an environmentalist for an international NGO, before settling in Thailand in 2010.
Sepe’s commitment to photography started in the late 1970s, during the waning years of the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines. Joining fact finding missions and documenting the lives in areas of the underground movement. His photographs contributed significantly to the social and political changes that changed the country.
Film-based and manual photography has always been deeply rooted in his practice even at the height of the popularity of digital imaging. So instead of joining the race in the never-ending upgrade of digital cameras, he decided to revert to an even older method than film by discovering ambrotype (term for a photograph made by wet plate collodion process).
From March 2 to 6, photographers and serious enthusiasts to chemical-based photography will have the chance to learn the process when Sepe holds a workshop in the country to a select group of prospective enthusiasts.