World’s largest wet collodion plate created in abandoned house converted into a camera

29 Nov

While the rest of the world has been concentrating on making cameras smaller and lighter photographer Ian Ruhter was making one literally the size of a house in order to make the world’s largest wet collodion plate. Ian and his team sealed up an abandoned house in California and mounted a lens in the wall to create a massive camera. The camera was used to produce a portrait of a 100-year-old local resident on a sheet of glass measuring 66×90 inches.

The scale of the camera is one thing, and the size of the finished image is another, but what is most remarkable is that the team used a process that requires the glass plate to be coated with a solution of collodion poured from a jug right before the picture was taken.

The house selected was an abandoned ruin in an area called Bombay Beach, and the living room was used to form the camera. A giant hole for the lens was cut into the side of the house projected the image of the outside world into the room, and onto the massive sheet of glass for a ten second exposure.

The team made a fascinating documentary about the process that shows the project from start to finish and the thinking behind it. More of the team’s old-process adventures can be seen on the Silver and Light Vimeo channel.

Video description:

“While working with wet plate collodion Ruhter came up with an idea to show the world the beauty of these objects in a size that was deemed impossible. This led him and the Silver & Light Team to a forgotten town on the edge of the Salton Sea called Bombay Beach, located in California’s Imperial Valley. The idea was to create a camera out of an abandoned house. The structure would serve as the framework for the camera. Instead of focusing on the decay from the outside, this house camera allowed a view from the inside into someone’s dream.

Once the giant lens was placed on the front of the house, images of Ted, a 100 year old resident who recently found himself homeless, were projected in, breathing new life into this abandoned structure and once again making it a home. During this brief moment in time when Ted’s photograph was captured, he was present in both places. In reality, he was homeless in the outside world. However, the projected image simultaneously allowed him to be sitting in the living room where he was once again home. because the surface of the plate is highly reflective the life sized plate serves as a mirror, allowing one to reflect upon where they will be in the twilight of their life.

Ten seconds of this dream were recorded on a 200 pound sheet of glass coated with collodion. The result was a 66”x 90” Ambrotype, which is recognized as the world’s largest wet plate collodion image.”

Articles: Digital Photography Review (

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