Someone You Should Know: Wet Plate Photographer

Someone You Should Know

The room is perfectly still for the big moment: the capturing of a meticulously composed image. That stillness—all ten seconds of it—is non-negotiable.

“Everything is difficult about this process, but to me that’s the point,” says Shane Balkowitsch. “What’s difficult is what makes it so wonderful.”

Balkowitsch is a wet plate photographer, or ambrotypist. It’s an esoteric art form from the 1800s that marries silver to glass, creating an image that’s crystal-clear. Shane describes it like this:

“If I put a molecule of silver on the tip of my finger and ask you to look at it, you can’t see it. Put a million molecules of silver on the tip of my finger, ask you to look at it, you can’t see it. So that’s what I’m writing in. Put it under the most high-resolution microscope you could find, and you can’t get to the pixel of grain.”

So why was ambrotype abandoned just a decade after it was invented? Well, for starters, it requires ten seconds of perfect stillness from the subject. “It’s not for the faint of heart,” Balkowitsch says.

It also requires precision, speed, bright light, and a lot of chemicals. It’s time consuming and labor intensive—a far cry from snapping a digital photo on your iPhone.

But Balkowitsch isn’t so sure that faster is better. “We are trusting technology with our memories,” he says. “This entire generation of people that’s trusting their iPhones and digital cameras is going to be lost on the world, because there’s no way these images are going to find their way into the future.”

And maybe—just maybe—he has a point. Because the final step—when all that hard work becomes tangible—can only be described as magical.

“The fact that I was able to pour these chemicals onto a piece of glass that I cut by hand, and his image appeared—it seemed like magic to me,” Balkowitsch says of his first wet plate. “I’ve made over 2,500 plates as of today, and that has not been lost on me at all.”

Shane Balkowitsch—using the past to capture the future—is someone you should know.

Balkowitsch recently completed a natural light studio for his wet plate photography — the first of its kind in North Dakota in over a century.

Click here to learn more about Shane Balkowitsch’s work.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Recent Videos

HS Soccer

Thumbnail for the video titled "HS Soccer"

Minot State Football

Thumbnail for the video titled "Minot State Football"

HS Football

Thumbnail for the video titled "HS Football"

Go Kart Racer

Thumbnail for the video titled "Go Kart Racer"

Ducks Unlimited

Thumbnail for the video titled "Ducks Unlimited"

Robert's One Minute Forecast 9-14-18

Thumbnail for the video titled "Robert's One Minute Forecast 9-14-18"

Walk for Apraxia

Thumbnail for the video titled "Walk for Apraxia"

Cannabis for Veterans

Thumbnail for the video titled "Cannabis for Veterans"

Suicide Week

Thumbnail for the video titled "Suicide Week"

Valorous Unit Award

Thumbnail for the video titled "Valorous Unit Award"

FNFF: Class A, 9-Man

Thumbnail for the video titled "FNFF: Class A, 9-Man"

frenzy class AAA

Thumbnail for the video titled "frenzy class AAA"

I-94 Crash

Thumbnail for the video titled "I-94 Crash"

Handgun Found on Student

Thumbnail for the video titled "Handgun Found on Student"

Patroling Rural Areas

Thumbnail for the video titled "Patroling Rural Areas"

Friday, September 13th, 2019 - KX Storm Team Evening Forecast - Dave Holder

Thumbnail for the video titled "Friday, September 13th, 2019 - KX Storm Team Evening Forecast - Dave Holder"

Commercial Space

Thumbnail for the video titled "Commercial Space"

U-Mary Hockey Season

Thumbnail for the video titled "U-Mary Hockey Season"

Reclaim Health

Thumbnail for the video titled "Reclaim Health"

Minot City Budget

Thumbnail for the video titled "Minot City Budget"
More Video

KX News Trending Stories

Don't Miss