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Wet Plate Process

Also called the collodion process, early photographic technique invented by Englishman Frederick Scott Archer in 1851. The process involves adding a soluble iodide to a solution of collodion (cellulose nitrate) and coating a glass or metal plate with the mixture. In the darkroom the plate is immersed in a solution of silver nitrate to form silver iodide. The plate, still wet, is exposed in the camera. It is then developed by pouring a solution of pyrogallic acid over the plate and then fixed with a solution called sodium thiosulfate or with some artist, potassium cyanide. Immediate developing and fixing are necessary because, after the collodion film drys, it becomes waterproof and the reagent solutions will not penetrate it. The process is valued for its level of detail and clarity it allows. A modification of the process, in which an underexposed negative (clear glass) is backed with black paper or velvet to form what is called a ambrotype, became very popular in the mid-to late 19th century, as did a version on black lacquered metal known as a tintype, or ferrotype.

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