The James Kaneko Art Gallery at American River College is hosting its newest exhibit, “The Passion of Process,” by photographer Luther Gerlach.
The exhibit opened March 19 and features examples of wet plate collodion photography, a process that dates back to the late 1800s.
In addition to his installation in the Kaneko, Gerlach will hold a lecture on the historical photographic process in Raef Hall on April 12 at 7 p.m. and a demonstration on April 14 at 2 p.m.
The demonstration will be held on a bus that doubles as a mobile dark room. Gerlach will show the entire process of taking and developing wet plate collodion photos.
Gerlach is a southern California based photographer who has hosted demonstrations and workshops, as well as had his work displayed in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
Gerlach’s exhibit features examples of both ambrotype and tintype photographs made through the extensive wet plate collodion process.
Patricia Wood, the gallery director, offered insight into the complex process.
“Basically it’s where you take those huge old cameras, take a picture, expose it into a glass plate with collodion,” Wood said. “It’s a liquid so you pour it on there and you have to balance it. Then you dip in into silver nitrate and the image is actual on the glass.”
Collodion is a highly flammable solution of pyroxylin in ether and alcohol and is instrumental in processing wet plate photography.
In terms of length, Wood said the process takes much longer than photography does today.
“It’s [a long process] in terms of getting the camera out, setting it up,” she said. “The exposure time is several minutes. It’s a lot longer than pushing a button on your phone.”
According to his artist statement, Gerlach finds his artistic expression through the process of historical photography.
“Quite often, I feel as if my soul is in the past and my mind is in the future,” he wrote. “The vintage cameras and processes I use have a magical quality, which helps me to bring forth an indefinable depth of feeling and poetic structure in my photographs. My primary concern is that my art communicates both on a factual level, as well as on one of beauty and emotion.”
Wood said Gerlach’s works are being shown in the Kaneko as a part of Sacramento’s first ever photography month.
“Viewpoint Gallery in Sacramento is spearheading an idea that every April of every even year, will be photo month in Sacramento,” Wood said, “They’re trying to get every single gallery in Sacramento, every community college, to have photography exhibitions as a celebration of photography.”
Jodie Hooker, an ARC photography professor, initially wrote a grant to bring Gerlach on campus for a lecture and a demonstration. After some rearranging at the gallery, the Kaneko was able to include an installation of his work as well.
“The Passion of Process” will run in the Kaneko Gallery as a part of the city’s Photography Month Sacramento through April 14.