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This Photographer Shot a Wet Plate Portrait Over Video Chat


Photographers around the world have been getting creative to keep their skills sharp during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and widespread home quarantine. While many photographers are experimenting with doing remote photo shoots over video chat, Shane Balkowitsch took it to a new level by capturing a wet plate portrait.

As far as Balkowitsch can tell through his research, this may be the first-ever wet plate portrait shot over a live video chat.

It’s “creativity out of necessity in isolation of a pandemic,” Balkowitsch says.

Last Friday, the US-based Balkowitsch photographed the UK-based Morgan Barbour from 3,961 miles away thanks to the video chat service Zoom.

“Our mutual friend Josh Withers was in the line with us offering his expertise and support,” Balkowitsch says.

Balkowitsch instructed Morgan to use a white sheet as a backdrop, turn off all the lights in the room, and then illuminate the sheet with light.

The subject-side setup.

While Morgan held still for 60 seconds, Balkowitsch used his large-format camera to capture an exposure of Barbour posing on the computer screen in his studio.

“Our idea was to capture her silhouette in silver on glass. So the light bounced off her face captured by her iPhone. That image was then transmitted over the Internet to my computer screen. Then my focused lens and chemicals had to interpret the light from my monitor and render her portrait in silver on glass using a 170-year-old photographic process.”

The result is a portrait titled “A Long Distance Exposure In Isolation.”

Here’s the finished wet plate portrait — note the mouse cursor in the upper left:

Here’s a 45-minute recording of the Zoom chat showing how this photo shoot was done:

You can find more of Balkowitsch’s work on his website and Instagram.