Mirror Self-Portrait Captured Using a Wet Plate Camera

Yesterday we shared an old school mirror self-portrait from 1917, captured by a young Australian fight pilot named Thomas Baker on a Kodak camera. After seeing that image, photographer Sam Cornwell decided to shoot his own old-school mirror selfie… using a 12×15-inch wet plate camera!

Cornwell had recently borrowed the camera from a friend for a shoot he’s planning to do next week, and this random idea provided the perfect opportunity to test out the gear before the big shoot.

He set up for the photo by bringing everything into his living room:

The ingredients list included: two big 5500k lamps, a couple of large mirrors, his four-month-old son named Indigo, and a set of block letters that spell out “PetaPixel.”

After arranging everything the way he wanted in the frame — which took some time due to the massive lens — Cornwell created a picture using a two-minute exposure:

The long-ish exposure time turned his son into what he calls the “weird blob” at the bottom of the frame:

Cornwell estimates that the picture cost about £10-£15 (~$16-$24) to create.

Now here’s a challenge for the rest of you: try your hand at shooting your own curious mirror self-portrait using an alternative style of photography, and then show us what you come up with. If we receive good ones, we’ll find some way to share them, whether it’s by updating this post, creating a Flickr set, or publishing a new roundup post. Good luck, y’all!

Image credits: Photographs by Sam Cornwell and used with permission

  • Vlad Dusil

    Very neat!

    I find it fascinating that with advances in tech, people tend to get intrigued by and rediscover old tech. Happens with music, photography, cars, etc.

  • stanimir stoyanov

    There’s a theory describing this phenomenon, called Simplexity:

  • kabummmm

    looking at the quality i prefer digital… ;)

  • James

    Ironically the header photo is cropped and digitally manipulated.

  • Damian Monsivais

    Actually if this process was done to perfection you wouldn’t be saying this.

    12x 15 positive with no grain whatsoever.

  • Samcornwell

    It’s neither actually. Full crop on an iPhone under warm living room lights. But yes, it would be ironic.

  • Samcornwell

    It was my first attempt at this size. The pour is very difficult and the dev is even trickier. Tomorrow I’ll be at it again but trying more suitable subjects like a straight forward portrait or landscape as the above can seem pretty confusing.