Nick Brandreth uses historical photographic processes to document New York State

Nick Brandreth dry plate process

I was lucky enough to ask Nick Brandreth a few questions about his current photography project.

What is your photography project and what do you hope to achieve with it?

My project is to use historical photographic processes to explore and create a body of work documenting parts of New York State that have the potential to be affected by "fracking". With this project my plan is create a beautiful body of work by first creating a series of negatives on glass with a hand made silver bromide emulsions. Then I will take soil from the different landscapes which will be milled down and added to other earth pigments to create Carbon prints. By using the carbon printing process and added my own pigment made from the landscape, the body of work will in fact be made from the same land in which I'm trying to help protect. In the end i hoping that the work will stand as a historical document of our modern landscape as well as help raise awareness of what we have and what we stand to lose.

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I'm interested in why you choose to use the dry plate method for your documentary project. Can you tell me a little bit about why it is special and how does it relates to your subject matter?

For the past year I've been apprenticing under Mark Osterman the process historian at the George Eastman House. My intentions were to come and learn about as many processes as i possibly could. I was looking to find the perfect process that would pair with my style of shooting & working. I really fell in love with the dry plate process, It takes me about a day to make a emulsion and then i can coat as many plates as i want in almost any size to go out and work with. The emulsion technology that I'm working with is of the same vintage that George Eastman started the Eastman dry plate company which eventually became Kodak. I typically work with 4x5 and whole plate (6.5x8.5) and I'm coating this emulsion on glass plates, on a normal day I'll go out into the field with about 6 plates. Making images on glass has become an obsession, I think glass plate negatives by themselves are some of the most beautiful objects one could create photographically. So when it all boils down to it the process really paired with my workflow extremely well and its a bit of an homage to the rich history of photography in western, NY.

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Upstate New York has a long history of being a place where people flock to see beauty but also a place of industry. Will you be focusing solely on the area's natural beauty or will you also be including elements of the regions industrial past?

This is actually a question i find myself coming back to repeatedly. New York State along with most of the north eastern US has a rich history of industry that is nestled away amongst the area's rich natural beauty. It's hard to say exactly at this point what images i will end up making as I'm still exploring my idea. However, this project is about how one industry will potentially effect and alter a landscape forever. Most of the small towns and cities sprinkled across the NY are there because of industry that once was or is still in place. Therefore, I will try to touch on the subject of the state industrial past and how the landscape has been affected up until this point. A large portion of my focus is on bodies of water across the state and a good potion of the industry is positioned on or in close proximity to major water ways. If we look to some of these places as an example of what happens after the industry leaves an area, I think we can take a cue as to what will happen after the energy companies and the fracking boom leave. Western, NY isn't exactly know for being a financial hub for our country, It's argued that drilling will bring some financial stimulus to area's that are struggling. However, in my eyes the short term monetary gains are over shadowed by the fact that the land and the people who depend on it will be far worse of then before they started. Most of the jobs won't go to local people and most of the gas will be exported to other countries. I'm not trying to think 10 or 20 years into the future I'm trying to think hundreds of years ahead. I think that at this point our systems of obtaining energy be it oil or natural gas is archaic and new means need to be implemented. There are more than enough smart and talented people who could rise to such occasion, and i hope these work could lead to some type of change.

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For More Information

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