Angie Pember Brockey - Interview
Angie Pember Brockey shoots wet plate collodion! angie's delicious images are made using a nearly 200 year old process, which gives timelessly beautiful, incredibly evocative results. Angie creates both large images and very tiny ones. Some of her plates are only a few centimeters across, & can be placed into vintage jewellery settings to create unique gift items.
Hi Angie! What sorts of photography do you do? How experimental are you?
As of now, almost all of my photography is shot in Wet Plate Collodion which is the historical photographic process that was the primary method used in the early 1850s until the late 1880s. I do have a desire to try other methods eventually but I think my favorite will always be "analog", using a darkroom, capturing and creating in the old, seemingly organic processes.
I guess I would say I've been pretty experimental. This is probably why I've always gravitated toward the arts. There really aren't too many rules...or once I understand a few rules then I'm pretty much free to explore and express how and what I want. All growing up I wrote music and performed, sometimes with my sister. We knew the "rules", what made a song work, and then we were free to explore melodies, harmonies and lyrical ideas that could take us to a different world. I think this is what I've been doing in my photography as well. There are definite rules when it comes to the chemistry in Wet Plate Collodion and after that I try not to restrict myself. I think most of my experimentation comes out of necessity. I have taken hundreds of tiny photos, some as small as 25 mm or 1 inch in order to create little precious jewelry pieces and I don't believe I would have necessarily explored the realm of photographic jewelry if it weren't for needing gifts for my mother and sister on Mother's Day. The idea came to mind shortly after beginning in Wet Plate and I just knew they would love a special handmade photo to wear. This little necessity became a never ending avenue of experimentation.
Tell me more about THE camera(s) that you use, and how it's possible to take such tiny pictures.
The first camera I ever used for Wet Plate is an 8x10 reproduction 1800's Bellows camera with a Dallmeyer 3D Lens. This is also the one I used to first begin taking my tiny tintypes. It began with the desire to take little 2"x2" tintypes. I thought I wanted to do a grouping of several of these little fun plates as a project and then after I discovered a way to attach the little plates to my 4"x 6" plate holder I realized I could actually cut any size at all that I wanted. It was a natural progression as Mother's Day was coming up and I wanted to make something special for my mom and sister. I knew they would absolutely love a tiny photo to wear. I spent part of an afternoon taking a few very small collodion plates in a an older handheld film camera but couldn't seem to get the focus I wanted. I then happily returned to the 8x10 bellows, took about 5 different 30 mm pieces for my mother and sister to choose from and their reaction was amazing.
For Christmas last year my husband, Justin bought me a 5x7 field camera and Voigtlander lens which soon became my favorite.
Do you have an art education? What is it about image making, particularly photographic image making, that compels you?
I did go to school for art and writing for a short time but haven't completed a degree. But at this point, I pretty much know what I want to do and as anyone can, I can find the information I need for whatever I want to explore, online. It's so amazing and I'm so grateful to have this incredible source.
I've always been involved in image making through painting or drawing and never felt compelled to delve into photography until I was inspired by my very talented husband, Justin Brockey. He worked in digital for many years and then grew tired of it. He decided to research Wet Plate and told me he wanted to set up a darkroom, buy the chemicals, the camera and lens. At first I wasn't very happy about it...all the expense. I thought Justin could easily spend all this time and money to have everything gather dust in the corner. He had to nudge me for about two weeks to actually take and develop my first shot. I really didn't have any desire but finally set up a shot, poured the emulsion on my metal plate, exposed the image and then it was magic. I saw my image appear in the tray and I was immediately hooked. This was an experience that felt organic. It felt more like painting a fine work of art to me than digital ever had. I guess the sensory experience of creating is extremely important in my process and I loved the visual experience of seeing the image appear. The feeling of brushes on canvas or a pencil on paper and now the flowing of collodion on a plate are all very satisfying. And to top it all off, I get to create images of things that bring me so many different emotions and images that take me on little journeys. I get to create or recreate feelings or daydreams I had as a kid. It's just playing really and working at the same time to see if I can capture the ethereal place I see or feel in my mind. Sometimes I can and sometimes the process takes me to a completely different place, but a different place just as magical.
Do you see yourself exploring alternative processes more deeply in the future?
Wet Plate is the only alternative process I've worked with so far but I'm sure I'll be ready to try other techniques at some point. I'm just having so much fun with Collodion for now and my mind is full of projects to tackle in the near future using this great technique.
What else is in your future?
I definitely want to spend more time making larger plates and really cultivate my conceptual photo skills. Wet Plate lends itself well to fantastical and quirky ideas. It has the ability to highlight beauty and surround it in mystery. I can't wait to experiment and attempt to capture what has been rolling around in my head. I just need some good weather, a few great models, headpieces, costuming and a few practice plates. We'll see how it goes. Of course I want to continue my little jewelry pieces, using different interesting settings and more fine silver pieces that I design and forge. I also want to create other little keepsakes that can be displayed, not worn. This idea is probably what I'll be working on next and I hope to have a few finished before Christmas.
You can see more of Angie's wonderful work on her Facebook page.