Modern-Day Street Photographs of England Captured with a 130-Year-Old Camera


What’s a photographer to do when they’re in possession of a 130-year-old wooden camera and a 100-year-old lens, capable of capturing images using the wet plate collodion process?

Well, if you’re Jonathan Keys, you set out on a mission to document the modern world around you using tools that are all but ancient in the world of photography… and you get spectacular results for your effort.

Roaming the streets of Newcastle, Keys captures the present-day scenery and citizens, juxtaposing the fast-paced, modern world around him with a photographic method that is aesthetically reminiscent of Newcastle’s more humble beginnings.

In all, Keys captures no more than six photographs on a given day due to the labor-intensive process of wet plate collodion photography. He doesn’t seem to mind it though. “it’s definitely far more rewarding than digital photography,” he tells My Modern Met, “because of the time and attention needed for each picture.”

Here is a small sample of Keys wet plate street photography:












Each exposure — from prepping the plate, to exposing the scene, to developing and fixing the final plate — takes about 15 minutes to create, making this a strange choice indeed for street photography. And yet, there’s something about these images that no amount of “retro” post-processing could recreate in earnest, making it all worth it.

To see more of Keys work, be sure to visit his Flickr account by clicking here.

(via My Modern Met)

Image credits: Photographs by Jonathan Keys and used with permission

  • Sid Ceaser

    Yes. Every bit a resounding Yes to this. Bravo. I love it. As a huge fan of vintage photography for most of my life, it’s an amazing time right now, with such a huge resurgence of Tintype/Wet-plate photography. It also makes me uber-jealous, because I haven’t found the time to start doing this process myself. :(

  • Leonardo Abreu

    Really amazing!!

  • coolnalu

    it seems things have not changed at all.

  • Kris Moralee

    My city. Fantastic. Love the shot looking up to Greys Monument, very nice

  • Anomouse

    Do you post these wet plate stories once a week or twice a week now?

  • superduckz

    Magnificent images. The longer I do this the more I find my favorite imagery to be where everything has to slow down and the photographer has to be deliberate, to stop and think along the way. No exception here.. I REALLY ant to try this someday.

  • Dover

    It is a photography blog.

  • seorasx

    If this is the best set of images I dread to think what the rejects are like. Sorry but this is really duff photography thats all over the place. The street images are especially bad. So, less time on the process more on the imagery. It doesn’t matter what process you use if the vision isn’t there to match then a re think is in order.

    Curios as to what the final printing was done on, or were the plates just scanned. POP of course if it was still available would be the likely choice, if really looking for authenticity.

  • Anomouse

    I thought it was hipster poser daily….

  • dave e.

    …and images created ‘back in the day’ were “all over the place”, too. The point was to capture everyday life, not necessarily to make grandiose artistic statements.
    Seriously…does every artistic effort need to be criticized so deeply? If it bothers you so badly, get the equipment, get out there, and do better.

    Try and appreciate it for what it is, not what you expect or wish it would be.

  • Zos Xavius

    Seriously? Why do I read the comments on petapixel? Why?!

  • John

    This person writes just to be read and hasn’t the faintest idea of what artistic expression or integrity is. To bad that people like this waste our time writing comments. Take a class. Wait…you can’t teach talent.

  • seorasx

    We are talking about these images, these ‘street’ photographs.

    Yes artistic vision does need to be critiqued, firstly by the photographer themselves, to understand, correct and refine the ‘vision’. If you put images in front of the public then they are open to analysis and judgement, or do you think everything online and in magazines is of the highest value, beyond question.
    The problem I have (one of) is that here there is a lack of consistency in approach and subject.
    What I wish to see are good strong images, if the medium/process enhances that then all the better. In this case I don’t think they do.
    I’ve coated glass plates many years ago (so know the difficulties) and latterly I’ve used printing out paper, an interesting exercise but not for me. I’ve also printed from old c.1900 plates. has an alternative process week so I would suggest you see what is there.

  • seorasx

    Photographer and picture editor for twenty plus years and degree in photographic studies. Gallery owner prior to that.

  • Brandon Huff

    These so called “Hipsters” gain respect from me, they have a lot of creativity and enjoy different things. I just so happen to shoot film my self and would do this if I could, it’s creative and intriguing.