First year Alex McDowell discusses his on going personal project ‘Fatima’ and his developing methodology which includes shooting large format camera portraits and experimenting with the Wet Plate Collodion Process.

“During these odd times, I decided to stop, step back, and completely change the method and theory behind my photography. Rushing when shooting has always been an issue of mine, a problem I have endeavoured to rectify since starting further education.

When looking at the works of Sally Mann, Helmut Newton and so on, I was inspired to explore more alternative processes, such as wet plate collodion and large format film; not just shooting but the development process too. Spending time using the collodion process completely changed my outlook, the process is only sensitive to UV light, and once the plate is prepared must be shot and developed within 10-15 minutes. 

My first plate was prepared and loaded into the holder, absolutely no preparation with the model meant by the time we had set up and focused, the plate was dry and ruined. Over the next 8-10 plates, I began to focus my attention more on light, pose and focus; all before the plate was poured; slowing down my thought process, preparation, staging and shooting time.

Skills I have now applied to shooting portraits, especially in large format. This research and practice has informed and inspired my new 4×5 zine project – ‘Fatima’; exploring the effects of Covid-19 on people in the creative arts and live performance industries.”

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