News / Wet Plates

Shot, Robbed and Headed for Higher Ground

It all began two weeks ago at a thrift store district on Knickerbocker Avenue. I was looking for a vintage suitcase, and found the perfect piece for ten dollars. After inspecting it thoroughly for evidence of bed bugs, I ripped out the lining and brought it up to the studio.

The plan was to construct a darkbox, a portable darkroom for shooting wet-plate in the field. I imagined something that could both match our furniture and be dragged easily into a ravine, rainforest, what have you. With eager minds and nimble hands Richard and Jolene took to the construction, and so the story goes:

Richard Solinger unveils the secret of universal harmony, of all things united spiritually, spatially, past, present and future and oh my god I worke up at six am and will wake up at six am and its two am and nothing makes sense.

From that day forth it took several sleepless nights, four hardware stores and the borrowing of my mother’s sewing machine to complete the box. The final darkbox weighed a friendly twenty-three pounds, boasted a window of eighty-one square inches and nine cubic feet of workspace. We finished it with gold leafed peacock fabric from The City Quilter, which was the most expensive part but certainly worth the extra cash. During the construction we shot hundreds of photos with the intent of making a “how-to” post, but in time my camera would succumb to a dreadful fate – just hours before Hurricane Sandy struck.

Our new intern Meredith Goldstein radiating beauty before our lens. Unfortunately the plate was underexposed and the weather was too chilly to try another.

Upon its completion we loaded up our crew and gear, then headed for the exotic streets of South Philadelphia. Following a night of celebrating Jolene’s twenty-fourth birthday (shoutout to Sophia for her hospitality), we shot our first plates with the darkbox on Oregon Ave. & South 9th St. The second day we heard rumors of a massive cat village by the piers, so we made a day of shooting on the water overlooking New Jersey.

An alleyway off South Ninth Street

Oregon Avenue, shot at dusk. This exposure ran six minutes.

A big thanks to Andrew Porteus, who has helped us numerous times throughout our project. He’s practically one of the team at this point.

Two men we met on a pier in South Philly. They didn’t speak any english so we couldn’t ask them to sit still.

We didn’t leave Philly until the early hours of the morning, and returned to Brooklyn exhausted and delirious. The hurricane winds were picking up and the streets were barren so we left the van, as would fools, on Cook St for a few hours. By the time we returned my self-published comic books littered the street. Our suitcase and clothes were strewn about; camera, tools, medication and various personal effects were gone. The silver bath was poured about the van’s interior – blinding the perpetrator who forgot his blade on my driver’s seat.

With our crew disbanded, Jolene and I spent the storm shooting plates out our window.

One of two tintypes shot during Hurricane Sandy. The waving lines are actually trees.

Morale is improving with the passing of the gale. We wish all our fellow New Yorkers the driest of basements and the swiftest of commutes. If you like any of the works you see in this post then feel free to buy one. Visit the new “store” section of our site to purchase tintypes or portrait sessions, all at an incredibly reasonable price. It’s your patronage that keeps our collodion pouring, and our hands covered in silver stains.

Yours Truly,

Mike Falco

and the Folks at Tenement

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