Wet Plates

Three Plates: Otsego County, NY

Three outings by Mike Falco


Thanksgiving on the north side of Crumhorn mountain. There’s a shed in the distance and a small graveyard behind me. The people who live over here don’t drink their water anymore. They don’t even bathe in it. Two years ago a family over here had to put their horses down because they were so sick from natural gas contamination. I set up on the side of the road and the sun came through the clouds brighter than I thought.  So I let some time pass and thought about that graveyard’s future.


We’re walking through Riddell field, my brother and I. I hope to see horses but they haven’t been around in years. Burdocks hang from our clothes and deer ticks make their way up our legs. You can’t feel the rain but you can see it dropping over the creek.


It’s snowing over the bog up on Franklin mountain and I’ve taken off my jacket to see into the ground glass. The wind is picking up and my dad is losing his patience. The collodion isn’t pouring, it’s too cold. I already regret coming up here. Someone is firing a shotgun across the water. When I load the camera the wind picks up and scatters the darkbox and its contents across the ground.

I scramble to set back up but all the equipment is soaked in what was the silver bath. Everything I touch is already turning black. My pants are ruined, my nails stained orange. I climb underneath the soaked cloth and try to wrap it around myself. My dad asks what I’m doing and I tell him that I went through all this trouble and I might as well develop the plate. But the developer isn’t spreading. It’s freezing. I rock the tray back and forth, cursing myself, coaxing out the swamp like a spirit that just wanted to be let lone.


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