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Exploring the Ethereal: Alternative Process by Thapphawut Parinyapariwat
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About this series
In the bustling city of Bangkok, where tradition and modernity converge, I met photographer Thapphawut Parinyapariwat, who runs a vintage photography studio called Red Light Lab. Parinyapariwat, an artist with a passion for alternative photographic processes, has been making waves in the Bangkok photography scene with his realm of wet-plate Ambrotype portraits. With an innate ability to capture ethereal moments and evoke a sense of timelessness, Parinyapariwat's work is a testament to his unwavering dedication to his craft.
Inspired by the works of early pioneers and the rich history of the medium, Parinyapariwat ventured into the mesmerizing world of wet-plate Collodion Ambrotype. This painstaking and intricate process, dating back to the mid-19th century, involves coating a glass plate with a light-sensitive Collodion solution, exposing it while still wet, and then developing it on-site. The result is a hauntingly beautiful image, imbued with a sense of depth and soul that is unique to this technique.
With each plate meticulously crafted by hand, Parinyapariwat breathes life into his subjects. One of the biggest benefits of using a large format to capture images is the high resolution and fantastic depth of field it offers. His work not only pays homage to the rich history of photography but also challenges the notion of the medium as a fleeting, disposable art form in today's digital age. By reviving the essence of the past, he invites us to pause, reflect, and appreciate the artistry and craftsmanship inherent in every meticulously created Ambrotype.
Could you share with us what initially sparked your interest in alternative photographic processes such as wet-plate Ambrotype?
It was part of my final project when I was in college. I've always been around in the darkroom, and I wanted to try something challenging.
Wet-plate Ambrotype has a distinctive aesthetic that evokes a sense of timelessness. How do you feel this process enhances your ability to convey emotion and capture the essence of your subjects?
The collodion process is a one-of-a-kind method that offers a completely different perspective on capturing images. It is sensitive to the blue spectrum, resulting in a unique way of perceiving coloors compared to modern photographic film. Additionally, each plate I've made is crafted by hand, adding a sense of craftsmanship to the process.
Could you walk us through the step-by-step process of creating a wet-plate Ambrotype? What challenges do you encounter along the way, and how do you overcome them?
When preparing the plate, the glass is first cleaned by polishing it until it’s pristine and spotless. Alternatively, you can use modern materials like Aluminum or plexiglass. The next step is coating the plate by pouring collodion on it and draining the excess to create a thin, transparent emulsion. Before it dries, the plate is quickly immersed in a tank of silver nitrate for sensitising. Remember, collodion is only sensitive to the blue spectrum, so you must work under red light conditions.
Once the plate is sensitised, it's ready for capturing the image. Safely loaded into a 'Plate Holder' to avoid exposure, you'll typically require a Large format camera that fits the size of your chosen plate. For instance, an 8x10 plate would call for an 8x10 camera, and for larger plates, a bigger camera would be needed. Acting swiftly is essential, as you have only about 5 minutes before the plate dries and loses sensitivity to light.
After exposing the plate in the camera, promptly return the plate holder and proceed to develop it. At this stage, the plate will show a negative image. To transform it into a positive image, you need to fix it by washing out the unexposed silver. The magic happens right before your eyes – the plate turns into a positive. It's a fascinating process that requires a great deal of skill and craftsmanship. I personally had some experience with fine art, which came in handy when I began working with this technique.
In a world dominated by digital photography, what motivated you to embrace a labor-intensive and time-consuming process like wet-plate Ambrotype?
I believe we are currently living in a time where AI (Artificial Intelligence) is on the rise. Despite this, our focus here remains mostly on analogue work. Personally, I find that analogue processes define something about being 'human.' However, I am not very strict in my approach, and I use both mediums to be honest. Each medium has its own greatness, serving different purposes.
Bangkok is a vibrant and bustling city. How does this urban environment influence your choice of subjects and the way you approach your photography?
It can be quite enjoyable to capture contemporary subjects using a 150-year-old process. The blend of old and new often confuses people, making them wonder whether the resulting images are original historical pieces or recent creations.
Besides wet-plate you also documented the work and life of well known Yellow Fang band for more than 10 years. Can you tell us a little bit more about it? Are you planning to release the work as photo book?
It has been precisely 11 and a half years. We have been touring together ever since. I've had the opportunity to capture a lot of their photos, both on stage and behind the scenes. Most of my work was shot on film, and I plan to print everything using the darkroom process, creating both black and white and colour prints. Eventually, I aim to compile all these photos into a photo book.
What future projects or artistic endeavors are you currently exploring? Are there any other alternative processes or techniques you're eager to delve into?
Currently, I am working on the dry collodion process, which allows me to work without instant processing on-site. With this method, I can create a glass negative and later make a 'salt print' from it. Our Redlight Lab & Studio serves as a one-stop center for photography, offering services from digital prints to analogue processes, and we even provide framing options. In addition to my personal projects, I also assist others in creating their photography works
Thapphawut Parinyapariwat (SUN) is the founder of Redlight Lab & Studio in Bangkok. Parinyapariwat established his work in 2017, utilising the wet collodion process to capture captivating portraits of people and showcase the architectural marvels of the colonial era. The studio is conveniently located near the old town, where the essence of history intertwines with the spirit of modern creativity.
Photos copyright Thapphawut Parinyapariwat
DRAWLIGHTS | 1/1 – one post/one photographer, weekly. Off-chain and on-chain. By Peter Nitsch, lens-based artist, a member of NFT Now 🌐 and lifetime Member of the Royal Photographic Society of Thailand.