Ian Ruhter is a photographer, but he calls himself an Alchemist. He has a camera, but he calls it a Time Machine. Ruhter’s introduction to working with wet plate goes back to 2010 from which time he immediately started experimenting with the process.
One of his first photo shoots with skateboarder Levi Brown, was a near disaster. Due to the heat generated from the lights needed to expose the wet plate correctly, flash heads were exploding all over Brown — but the resulting 8×10 shot of Brown doing an ollie turned out ghostly and beautiful. It was the first time anyone had ever frozen motion with this process using electronic flash. Ruhter was hooked.
The Levi Brown frozen motion image was inspired by the works of Edward Muybridge and his famous horse in motion plates.
In an interview, Ian Ruhter said “the learning curve while attempting to make the worlds largest wet plate was continuous. If one step went wrong the whole plate could be ruined, and when plates run at $500 you’re blowing an emotional and financial investment in one exposure”.
“You had to develop it right or it leaves streaks. If you don’t put the silver nitrate on evenly you get spots,” Ruhter says. “But it gives each image its own signature, even the flaws are original.”
Ian holds world records for the largest ambrotype and the largest portable wet plate camera and produced the largest ambrotype in front of a live stage audience at Xposure International Photography Festival in 2016.