The Wet Plate Collodion: A Demonstration of a Historical Photographic Process by Dr. K. Azril Ismail

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The talk will discuss the historical photographic process before the era of manufactured photographic celluloid films and gelatin silver prints as practised by early pioneers such as Sachtler & Co, Carter & Co, Kleingrothe, Henry Schuren, G.A. Schleesselmann, the famous G.R. Lambert & Co., and various other Europeans who opened studios in Singapore and Penang where they carried out work in Kedah, Malacca, and Borneo. The extraordinary images of “Old Malaya”, which we often regard with a sense of nostalgia, romanticised (or colonialised, depending on one’s political perspective) various aspects of our people and places through this visual representation.

In this talk, Dr. Azril will look at how these extraordinary images were made – from the clear glass coated with a thin layer of collodion salt solution, then immersed in a silver bath solution rendering it light sensitive, to exposing and developing it in-situ, either as a negative, or a positive (ambrotype).

In addition, Dr. Azril will do a brief demonstration replicating this process using an antique camera and an adapted mobile darkroom, with similar chemicals used in the 19th century process, to develop the plate on the spot.


Dr. K. Azril Ismail is currently the Head of the Postgraduate Research & Development Programme for the Institute of Creative Arts & Design in UCSI, Kuala Lumpur. He holds a Doctorate in Philosophy from the University of Plymouth, for his visual studies of the Pudu Jail’s Graffiti (this portfolio is now on display at Badan Warisan Malaysia until 30 March 2019), having also graduated from UiTM (MA, Art & Design), and Columbus College of Art & Design, Ohio (BFA in Media Studies). An accomplished practising photographer and academic, Dr. Azril’s work has been featured in international exhibitions and published widely in art & photography magazines and journals

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