Wet Plate Collodion with John Brewer

Kate Horsley

Kate Horsley


John Brewer will be continuing his monthly wet plate collodion workshops at Double Negative Darkroom from Feb-Oct 2015. The workshops are held over two days at our Hackney based analogue photographic space. These intimate workshops have a maximum of 6 students and all materials are included.

Students will have a chance to make plates on glass (ambrotypes) and metal (tintypes) and plates of different sizes using a variety of modern and traditional (antique) cameras and lenses. Students will also receive a copy of John’s invaluable course booklet which gives detailed information on chemistry, process, equipment and materials.

Have a look at this video to see a quick summary of the process by Kristin McKee


Tutor information:

John Brewer has over 20 years of experience with alternative process and is one of Europe’s forefront experts in the wet plate process. He has exhibited his plates internationally and supplies collodion chemistry to many of the leading UK and European wet plate practitioners and artists.


Everything for preparing, exposing, processing and finishing plates will be provided. Participants will be able to use large format old and modern cameras  and lenses. Chemistry including all H&S will be also supplied. 

Dates for the first half of 2015:

  • 23/24 May (SOLD OUT)


Details for booking:

To book email: workshops@dndr.org.uk

Course Cost: £330

9 thoughts on “Wet Plate Collodion with John Brewer

  1. Almudena

    This course was great. We were a small group in a very familiar ambience. John is an approachable guy with a very strong knowledge on the subject always happy to answer questions and help students. He allows everyone to take pictures of the process and he also gave to students a very useful manual. I am not a native English speaker so I found these two things very handy as I struggle a lot taking notes. All materials were provided and I loved using the old large format cameras and the Petzval lenses. The after-the-course pints were also great.

  2. Douglas Nicolson

    I did John’s course a while ago and found it invaluable in getting into shooting wet plate. Johns continued support to his students is great and he can also supply all the chemistry you need to keep experimenting after the workshop. Highly recommend this course to anyone interested in wet plate.

  3. Georgi Liberty Lingwood

    After researching the work of the photographer Sally Mann and her use of the Wet plate collodion process I was fascinated to give it a try. I discovered John Brewer who runs workshops in this photographic field at The Double Negative Darkrooms in Hackney so I took the chance and booked onto one of his courses with my father as a birthday present…Over the course of two days I found an artistic medium that suits my interests beyond comparison with anything else I have worked with. The phenomenon of the interaction between camera and human form, chemical and light is otherworldly. When I took my first exposure on a collodion prepared glass plate I was not ready for the intensity of mystery apparent within the developing process. From crouching under a cover and peering through the huge lens of a beautiful large format camera I apprehensively carried my exposed plate to the darkroom anticipating what would happen next and whether it would work. After coating the plate in developer I gradually saw a spirit come to life on a piece of glass…Eyes, skin, hair and personality all grew out of glass within a tray of fixative, as if some ethereal presence had sucked the soul out of my father and breathed it through the camera’s heavy brass lens and into the addictive, sweet smelling chemicals on the plate. I have had the most inspirational teaching experience amongst very inspiring people in a very unique environment at the Double Negative Darkrooms and I am extremely grateful for it as it has changed the course of my future as an artist and most importantly my outlook on the world around me…
    Georgia Liberty Lingwood.

  4. Simon Sandys

    I thought the course was fantastic. John is a very knowledgable and experienced tutor who has a refreshingly relaxed approach to teaching which allows people to produce plates from an unpredictable and organic process – such is the wet collodion.
    I learned loads from this workshop and even after 20 years in photography gained tons of new insights.
    It was great to be in the darkroom and seeing the plates appear. Using this process Its kind of like shooting a supercharged ancient polaroid !
    I also loved the group dynamic which worked really well as a team. After sessions in the pub showed how much we all have in common.
    Thanks also to Seb at Double negative darkrooms for hosting the workshop and championing this technology. I Loved it.

    Simon sandys

  5. Andrew Miller

    For these “Victorian Polaroids” one cuts one’s own glass and tin plates to the exact size one needs, prepares the surface with collodion, sensitises the plate in the silver bath, CAREFULLY transfers the sensitised plate to a plate holder, takes it outside to one’s patiently waiting subject and pre-focussed camera, carries out fine focus and begs the subject to freeze, loads the plate holder, makes a long exposure, allows the subject to resume breathing, and trots back into the darkroom to develop as quickly as possible – before the collodion can dry and lock the silver salts undeveloped within. Hence, Wet Plate Photography. One at a time, from preparation to development. It’s not for snapshots.

    It really is a great process with huge artistic potential. The blacks are fantastic. Its grain goes beyond fine, it is in fact microscopic due to the collodion suspension of silver molecules. John Brewer presents examples of his work and I think you’ll find it as impressive as did my class group.

    I took this course at Double Negative in May 2014 with a small group of very motivated, enthusiastic neophytes from all backgrounds. I for example am a complete beginner to large format photography. It was a very thorough course; truly John is the best person to learn this from outside perhaps of the USA (where, however, you would have to dress up as a Confederate). I still now refer to his bound course notes provided on the day. After he made it quite clear what we were letting ourselves in for (you don’t want to splash this stuff in your eyes!) he generously let us loose on his own equipment, Victorian large format cameras with some of the brightest, best contemporary lenses that were made at the time. His collection is worth seeing on its own.

    It’s important to understand, that to attend this course you don’t need to bring anything with you at all except your interest. Absolutely everything is provided: from the chemicals to the cameras, to the plates, even the tea & biscuits. It is all included.

    However having said that, on Day 2 a number of us whipped out our own large format cameras (who even does that!) and John and his assistants were delighted to help us get used to shooting with homemade plates instead of the usual sheet film. That is very welcome.

    All in all a very complete course that will have you hooked on the process by about halfway through Day 1 and ready to set up your own Victorian photo booth by Day 2.

    Double Negative Dark Room is a fantastic venue for this sort of thing, with oodles of workspace and light with a very photogenic courtyard. This is only one of the excellent courses this studio offers regularly.

    PS: The most fun thing I learned on the course was the stagecraft in ‘handling’ one’s subjects for a 5-10 second exposure, culminating in The Big Reveal, which is the phenomenon that after Fix and Stop the plate is insensitive to white light so one can develop the cloudy, almost ghostly proto-image in a tray in front of one’s client in daylight. Watch together as the salts are stripped from the collodion, which clarifies and the developed silver image jumps out against the glass or black tin, sweeping in from the edges towards the centre. No gimmick, it’s guaranteed to make anyone’s heart leap the first time they see it – and still makes mine, every time.

  6. Kevin Rossin

    The Wet Plate Collodion course run by John Brewer is an excellent introduction to the traditional process. John is an expert in his field and the course is structured to suit all abilities of photographer. I was a complete newcomer to the process and I was able to come away from the course having gained enough knowledge and confidence to start producing plates for myself.

    The small group size is a perfect balance to allow you to experiment with the process whilst having enough contact time with John for instruction and to ask him any questions that arise. Being held over two days allows you to take a steady approach to the course and allows you plenty of time to practice the methods taught to you.

    In addition to John, Seb and Almundena from double negative darkrooms were on hand to assist with any additional questions and were very knowledgeable in all areas of traditional photography.

    Cameras and equipment were available to use on the day along with the chemistry and course materials. You also received a handy course booklet for you to refer to and take home along with your plates.

    Thanks to John, Double Negative Darkrooms and my course mates for a great experience!


  7. John Whapham

    Sitting at the computer writing this feedback or more precisely transcribing it with my voice activated software it seems an antithesis to the excellent double negative darkroom venue with its Victorian courtyard and where there is no data projector PowerPoint or computer insight!
    John Brewer is a leading exponent of wet plate collodion his enthusiasm is infectious and he is generous in providing you with his personal experiences, knowledge and tips.

    It would be unwise for anyone attempting wet plate collodion without this hands-on experience and tuition this type of course provides.

    In this image saturated screen-based world it is life enhancing to be given the opportunity to experience hands-on processes before the necessity of electricity. The very origin of what we take for granted. priceless!

    John Whapham

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