Barbara Cole Featured in Palm Beach Daily News

Canadian photographer specializing in 19th century technique showcases work in Palm Beach

Written by: Jodie Wagner of Palm Beach Daily News

Photography was an "accidental" interest for Barbara Cole, a Canadian artist who is exhibiting her work at the Holden Luntz Gallery in Palm Beach.

A former model who worked as a fashion reporter for a Toronto newspaper, she switched gears after developing a passion for photography.

"I worked as a fashion writer," said Cole, whose works are included in the exhibition, "Pictures in the Half-Light," which will be on view through Dec. 9. "Ten years later, I left as a photographer to open my own fashion studio."

"Pictures in the Half-Light" showcases Cole's work from her series of wet collodion and underwater photographs.

Cole is particularly proud of her wet collodion work, which she first began producing more than a decade ago.

Wet collodion is a 19th century-era photography process that requires photographic material to be coated, sensitized, exposed, and developed within the span of about fifteen minutes.

It is a labor-intensive process, Cole said, as photographers must cut a piece of glass or metal plate; coat it evenly with a syrupy substance called collodion; make it light-sensitive by dipping it in silver nitrate for a few minutes; load the wet plate into a dark slide which is inserted into the camera; take a picture; and then develop it.

If it's done right, Cole said, the wet collodion process can create very detailed, beautiful photos, but it often takes time to perfect.

"You have to be an artist and a chemist," she said. "If you get all the chemistry wrong, you can't get a beautiful picture. You can get an OK picture, but with stains on it. It's not very well-exposed. It's quite a challenge, but I love that about it."

Cole, who has run Barbara Cole Photography in Toronto for more than 40 years and recently published a book of her work, began experimenting with wet collodion photography after growing frustrated with modern photo technology.

"Everyone thinks they're a photographer," she said. "Anyone with an iPhone snaps a picture automatically and gets an automatic picture that's perfect and generic. I got a little frustrated, because shooting digitally, you can shoot as much as you want, and that makes you lazy. You don't have to think about your shot. You just shoot and figure it out. I went back to the earliest form of photography for the challenge of it."

It wasn't easy at first, Cole said.

"I made every mistake in the book, and I also made mistakes that weren't in the book," she said. "I was making people who taught me this process scratch their heads."

After 11 years, Cole has perfected the wet collodion process, and she continues to enjoy creating art through photography.

"It's almost like making a sculpture," she said. "It's so tactile. I loved it. I loved the feeling of working with the photographs with my hands rather than clicking a shutter. That felt way too mechanical."



Click here to read view Barbara Cole's new publication "Between Worlds"  

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