Using a Gigantic Wet Plate Van Camera to Tell the Stories of People in America

Earlier this year, we shared a beautiful short documentary, titled “Silver & Light“, which featured Los Angeles-based photographer Ian Ruhter and the gigantic wet plate photographs he shoots using a van that he converted into a massive camera. Since then, Ruhter’s work has received a good deal of attention; the video now has nearly 1 million views, and Ruhter has been traveling around the country and using his special photography to tell the stories of people he meets.

He has just released the new video above, titled “American Dream.” It’s an inspiring look at some of Ruhter’s first shoots for the project (note: it contains some strong language).

Here’s the description Ruhter gives:

The American Dream video is based on the fear of success, this thought is extremely powerful, fear has the ability to cripple us from pursuing our dreams. The moment I embraced my dreams it was as if the universe had drawn people to help us and share their stories. Our goal is to tell the stories of the people who live in America.

Some would say it was fate that I was led to Oscar Loreto. Oscar reminds me that being disabled is a state of mind. He is the proof that we are all looking for, he overcame and pursued his dreams regardless of the hand he was dealt. From this concept, the name of the project was born.

This is Ruhter’s camera, parked in the Los Angeles river:

Ruhter tells us that he will be releasing more short films in the future. You can follow along with his work by keeping your eye on his Vimeo account.

  • BlindPoet

    This is way way cool……….the photography, the idea and the touch on the lives involved, and my life. Totally awesome.

  • Piotrek Ziolkowski

    powerful stuff…

  • Mansgame


  • nik

    maybe i am getting something wrong but how is this a camera? From what i saw its just a type of instant printing of the image on sight and with wetplate process. but the van then only is the darkroom and not a giant wetplate camera van, right?

  • Michael Zhang

    Ruhter’s first video gives a better look at how the van camera works:

  • KH

    This is great. Truly uplifting and positive.

  • nik

    Thanks :) now i saw the lens setup!

  • Matt

    Absolutely awe inspiring. To go out and try to make a difference with your photography, your art, is so commendable.

  • Anonymous

    What Ian Ruhter does is something really unique and powerful. It’s very captivating to watch these people do their art. I only wish they would cut back on some of the verbal masturbation that this latest documentary had, and at least acknowledge that they are out there, sometimes in nature, working with very hazardous and toxic chemicals.