Depth, Experimentation and Analogue Processing

Ros Khavro is a Polish artist who creates work using the wet-plate collodion processand analog photography. Ros discusses the creative expansiveness of working with Ambrotypes and silver gelatin prints and how his time in the darkroom opens him up to new horizons every day.

Though his work is simplistic, each image embodies an enticing depth through the use of shadows and the remnants of experimentation characteristic of Ros’s creative process. Ros’s style reflects his belief in the importance of experimentation and the artist’s ability to transcend boundaries.

Some of his most recent projects include ‘Nude’ and ‘Black Haiku.’ Nude features a striking series of black and white snapshots of the body, with contrasting shades and heavy shadows emphasising each subject’s form. These unique images demonstrate not only Ros’s skill, but a level of care and attentiveness that is so often absent in digital photography today.

Read on to learn more about his work. 

THE PLUS: Can you briefly describe the process of wet plate photography?

Ros Khavro: The wet-plate collodion process is one of the earliest and probably the most popular systems of making a photograph. It was accidentally discovered by an Englishman named Frederick Scott Archer in 1851. 

The whole process takes place in the darkroom and is completely manual. There are a lot of chemical reactions involved; it is time consuming and requires a lot of attention. You create a photosensitive plate by pouring the liquid substance called collodion directly onto the glass plate, then throw it into the container with silver nitrate. After a few minutes in the silver bath, the plate becomes photosensitive.

TP: What draws you towards this form of art-making?

RK: Creating Ambrotypes or working with the silver gelatin prints in the darkroom opens new horizons for me every day. Using wet plate or analog photography I am simultaneously involved in all sorts of processes including: the use of skills, improvisation, randomness, accepting yourself and the reality that sometimes doesn’t suit you while allowing space to make mistakes.

TP: What is the role of experimentation in your creative process?

RK: I see two elements to experimentation. Sometimes it is controlled by my previous experience, in this case there are many attempts that lead me to achieve the desired effect and the second element is total improvisation.

TP: You work with shadows a lot, does this require an element of patience?

RK: Creating Ambrotypes requires a large amount of light. I use very high power studio lamps, exposure time varies from 5 seconds to 15. I also use daylight, which is more powerful than studio lights, then the exposure time is shortened to 1-2 seconds. In either case there is a lot of work with shadows. Analog photography requires even more precision with shadows work.

TP: You say you are interested in “the mystical and transcendental face of photography.” How do these concepts manifest in your work?

RK: Artistic, as far as I understand it is what goes beyond any boundaries and it is not mechanical, what is present in the artist but not controlled by him. With mystical, I do not pursue anything, it only expresses itself in the way it wants. Whether it is nudity or is it abstract or still life.

TP: What were some of the motivations behind your project “nude”?

RK: The body is time-fluid and changes like everything else, for me the body can also be an abstraction. That is why it is worth observing the work from different perspectives. My motivation is bodies – a secret that I don’t need to discover.

TP: Why analog?

RK: Analog gives me a lot of space for experimentation. In this case when I make mistakes it is physical and it educates me a lot. Besides each prints is hand crafted and unique.

TP: How do you see photography changing in the future?

RK: Technologies will develop further, whoever follows technology can tell about its future, I’m working with the moment of now and I am pleased with the result.