Dag 1

Today I almost made a Becquerel dag. The polishing issues were solved by a trip to Cookson’s in the Jewellery quarter to buy a lustre polish stick – it’s great working with silver in a city that has a whole jewellery quarter full of useful stuff.

The plate sensitised over the silver surprisingly quickly – too quick for me to photograph it – turning a deep yellow with the iodine coating. 

The exposure of the flyover near BOM was 20 minutes, which I think over did the plate a bit as it was sunny. Also shooting into shadows probably hindered the detail on the final plate.

I was expecting development under daylight in my red holder to be a long two hours, but the image appeared almost instantly – also suggesting over exposure. 

  
However, after fixing  the plate still appeared a bit muddy so I washed it under running water, a bit too much and it started to fade.

 
I then decided that maybe the image would be darker when dried and impatiently decided to speed up drying using the hand drier – unlike wetplate where a hair dryer dries plates nicely, this seemed to erase the fragile image – I won’t do this again!

  
I’m planning two more exposures tomorrow – it was a bit of a rubbish dag today, but I’m feeling excited there was an image there -it’s a nice starting point to improve from.

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Polish Polish Polish…

  
So I was feeling determined to get a becquerel dag sensitised in the BOM wetlab last week, and I have finally assembled all the kit I thought I needed below.

  
Feeling organised I emptied some rouge onto the first polishing plank and began to polish, and polish thinking that pure determination would eventually give me a mirror finish. An hour later and the silver plate was almost mirrored around the edges, but there was still an unpolished patch in the middle that was stubbornly still there. More polishing on the second plank with no rouge wouldn’t shift it, despite polishing so fast the plate got warm enough to burn my fingers.

  
I’m dumping the hand polishing planks tomorrow and bringing power tools.

Dag Shopping

With the arrival of my lab fume cupboard imminent (promised for next monday after 8 weeks of waiting for specially made filters that will be safe to use with Mercury,) today I’ve been focusing on shopping for all the other bits I’m going to need to get making some Dags.

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With such a diverse list of things, ebay is an amazing resource. I can only imagine how long this would have taken if I was sourcing these things without it.

I’m planning to start on some Becquerel (non-mercury) dags in a couple of weeks once the fuming cupboard is installed,  before maybe moving onto mercury after Mike Robinson’s workshop at Lacock abbey on the first weekend of August.

Silver plates have also arrived now from Cookson gold in Birmingham. Having Brummie silver feels important some how as I’ve been researching and thinking about the history of the process in this city.

Other resources that have proved useful this week are this fantastic video from Jerry Spagnoli, making a Becquerel dag;

And a description of the process from the ever useful Alternative Photography here

Fuming Boxes

The fuming boxes for making the Dags arrived this weekend from the wonderful K Azril Ismail and they really are very beautiful, just handling them I can tell they are going to be lovely things to work with. In fact. just as objects alone without their  function they looked pretty good sat on the side after I unpacked then from their carefully posted boxes.

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Originally I had planned to make much of this equipment myself, however I’m glad that I didn’t in this case as these are finished to a standard that my techniques would never live up to. Care has been taken with the form and function of each part, as you can see in the images below. If I had attempted to make something it would inevitably have ended up held together mostly with gaffer tape. Sometimes having beautiful kit can just be that bit more inspiring to make something with.

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Even the underneath of these has been carefully edged to look great with contrasting wood grain.

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Also included are adapters to use this with most plate sizes and a red filter to test for Becquerel processing.

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Ismail’s blog describes the making of these in much more detail – to see it please click here. A video demonstrating the use of these boxes produced by their maker is below.

Camera Tests

To work with alongside the Wolcott in order to make slightly bigger images and compare exposure times I have acquired this little quarter plate tailboard camera from Lionel Hughes, my local camera dealer.

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I tested it for light leaks and produced the following little negative on paper at BOM, which may end up being of similar subject matter to the Dags I’m planning to make as I explore the links between the shiny silver surface of the new New Street Station and the shiny silver Dags

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The Wolcott in comparison was really fast, and the only images I could produce without overexposure using paper to make negatives were shot from the darkest corner of the BOM snug. Below is a video playing around with setting up the Wolcott.

With the shortest exposure possible the negative below was produced on paper. With the slowness of Dags the overexposure problem should be a benefit – apparently the Wolcott shortened Dag exposures from 30 minutes down to 5 minutes.

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Laser Cut Wolcott Camera

A friend of mine who I met at a Wet Plate Collodion Event at Lacock Abbey, Guy Brown has been working on producing a laser cut version of the Wolcott camera from 1840. The Wolcott was patented as a way of making faster exposure times with Dags, through the use of a mirror rather than a lens. You can see as video of Guy’s rather beautiful version of this camera below or on youtube here.

Guy has kindly provided the drawings, free of charge on his website for anyone who has access to a laser cutter to use so I have built a prototype myself using the laser cutter available to me during my day job teaching art and design.

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The Wolcott camera coming off the laser cutter.

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The gluing process in the studio at BOM

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An image visible inside the camera

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The prototype together in the BOM gallery.

Some parts need re-cutting and it needs tweaking to make it more functional, however the basic structure works. If you would like to have a look at this little device please come along to my talk at BOM on Friday 10th April at 12.30pm and you can have a play with it.

Project Dag

This blog has been set up to record progress on Project Dag as I work towards creating some daguerreotypes in Birmingham this year. The word Daguerreotype will be shortened Dag in all future writing as the word is annoying to spell and long to type.

Creating Dags has been a longstanding ambition of mine since 2011 when my previous work with Wet Plate Collodion started to become less of a challenge. I attended a workshop with Christopher Brenton West in Oxfordshire during the summer of 2011, creating some magical Becquerel dags, however my circumstances since then have dictated that I have not been able to work with the process independently.

Now however, with the generous support of Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts and the workspace I have at BOM as a BOM Fellow I’m now starting on the way towards realising this ambition.

For anyone who is unsure of what a Dag is and how to make one, there are some fantastic videos on youtube such as these by the Getty museum and George Eastman house which explain the process more eloquently than I can at the moment.