Wet Plate Collodion Photographer Susan Seubert shoots for Smithsonian Magazine 101 Objects Issue

This was one of the most challenging assignments I’ve had in recent years.  I received a call from my editor at the Smithsonian Magazine asking if I would be available to shoot in Washington, D.C.  It was going to be in July, (read: hot!), and would take about a week.  The editors at the magazine were busy coordinating  seven photographers from around the United States, including Dan Winters, David Burnett and Albert Watson, to photograph a collection of objects at various Smithsonian Museums. I have been working in wet-plate collodion for about five years now, and was surprised to learn the photography department was interested in that work for an assignment. It was the first time anyone had ever commissioned work from me based on my “fine art” portfolio.

The title of the issue is called, “101 Objects That Made America.”  The segment I photographed is entitled, “America In the World,” and all the objects that were chosen have to do with America as it relates to the world. You can see the pictures online here.

The pieces I was assigned to photograph span five centuries.  The oldest “object” was a Novus Orbis map from 1532, based on tales from Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci.  It depicts the world as round, which at the time was a new idea, South America takes up most of that hemisphere and Cuba is where North America lies.  The youngest object that I was assigned gave me the most pause and I felt a bit of a chill when the curators brought it to our makeshift studio.  It is from 2001 and was donated to the Smithsonian by the New York City police. The stairwell sign from the 102nd floor of one of the twin towers that was destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11th was gently put on the set.  It had been found at the dump where the debris from the site had been taken in order to find any human remains or other significant evidence from that terrible day in American history.

When the issue was launched, the letter from the editor invited people to discuss the objects chosen for the special issue and to participate in a dialogue about what was included and why.  I cannot imagine the vetting process of choosing only 101 objects out of 37 million.  However, to be in such close proximity to things such as the Pocahontas engraving – the oldest piece in the National Portrait Gallery’s collection – was an extraordinary experience and one I will never forget.

The opening spread in Smithsonian Magazine for the section I illustrated, "America In the World."

The opening spread in Smithsonian Magazine for the section I illustrated, “America In the World.”

The second spread in Smithsonian Magazine where the oldest and newest objects are placed alongside a gas mask from World War I, the sign from the TV show, Mash, and a salvaged nuclear fallout shelter.

The second spread in Smithsonian Magazine where the oldest and newest objects are placed alongside a gas mask from World War I, the sign from the TV show, Mash, and a salvaged nuclear fallout shelter.

Editorial and Fine Art Photographer Susan Seubert on Oregon Public Broadcasting

Last night, Oregon Public Broadcasting aired their twice weekly segment on art, called Oregon Art BeatI was one of the three persons featured on the show.  It is so strange to watch myself on tv, as I’m used to being on the other side of the camera.  The piece is about the fact that I work both as an editorial photographer and a fine art photographer.  I would like to thank OPB, Jule Gilfillan, Tom Shrider and Randy Layton for putting together such a nice piece. I’d also like to thank This Old House for giving OPB permission to photograph us working on location for the March 2012 cover. I am also grateful to Michele Greco for allowing herself to be filmed while we were working – so a big thanks to my favorite stylist/producer. 🙂 Although this feels like more shameless horn-tooting, I really hope that you’ll take a moment to watch the video.

Oregon Art Beat video about Susan Seubert Photography

Wet Plate Collodion Photographer Susan Seubert reviewed in Equine

Any ink is good ink and this morning I was pleased to read a review in The Oregonian of the group show that my work is in at the Froelick Gallery called, “Equine.”  I made the piece that was curated into this show for my last exhibition, ” r e s t r a i n t.”  When the gallery owner saw the piece, he decided to hold it for this show.  The image is of a bridle with blinders and made with the wet plate collodion process. This piece has sold to a private collector, but I’ve included the image below and there is a link to the review here.  It’s always satisfying when an arts writer understands the territory I’m negotiating with my work and this brief review is no exception.  Thank you Bob Hicks!

"Horse Bridle with Blinders," 5x4", ambrotype, 2011

 

 

fine art photographer Susan Seubert working in wet-plate collodion

Greetings!  The holiday season is upon us already… my how time flies.  Last week was a flurry of assignments but with the annual slowing down of work around this time of year, I usually take some time to work on personal projects.  This year is no exception.  My good friend and mentor, Jody Ake moved to Portland recently and agreed to give me a refresher course on wet-plate collodion.  For a one-person show in 2009 during Portland’s biennial photo festival, Photolucida, I showed a group of 25 full plate ambrotypes – a study of birds nests that I created during a workshop in 2008 at the Oregon College of Arts and Crafts that Jody taught. This piece was also included in the Tacoma Art Museum’s 2009 Northwest Biennial.

grid of 8x10" ambrotypes entitled, "Nest"

Since that show, I’ve been busily filling print orders and taking assignments and have not had a large enough block of time to get back into the wet darkroom… until now!  Often I use my holiday card as a conceptually simplistic way to get my creative ball rolling again.  I’m looking forward to continuing to work in the wet-plate process making not only ambrotypes, but also ferrotypes.  Happy Holidays!

wet-plate ambrotype of mercury glass ornaments

Susan Seubert wins at the International Photo Awards

The International Photography Awards announced this morning the winners of their annual competition.  I am pleased to announce that I placed second in the Professional Category of Fine Art Nature in the sub category of “Other” with my piece entitled, “Nest.”

This is a tremendous honor and I wish I could go to the awards ceremony, but alas, I’ll be surfing in Maui the night of the festivities.  We will, however, raise a glass to all the other participants and wish good luck to the overall winner.  Thank you IPA!

Nest #1 from the series, "Nest"

Nest #1 from the series, "Nest"

A Smashing Success

This post is not meant to be a gloatfest, but I must admit I am left feeling a bit gobsmacked by the amount of people who attended my opening at the Froelick Gallery last Saturday evening.  It was incredible.  I have to give a huge thank you to my Mom and her friend Susan Brody who assembled the catering for the event.  Thank you to Photolucida for helping me promote the show.  KC was our fantastic bartender and Karl, Rebecca and Charles all did an incredible job of keeping everything running smoothly.  To have such a fantastic crowd during such a huge economic slump is heartwarming and makes me feel as though the tide has turned.  The evening was full of friends, strangers, photographers, curators, collectors and writers.  People took a leap of faith and purchased work.  There was much rejoicing.

If you missed the show, you can see it on my web site seubertfineart.com or at the Froelick Gallery’s site. Here are a few photos from the installation process, the catering volunteers and before the opening began…

My incredible husband, Steven Josefsberg, installing the Nest series

My incredible husband, Steven Josefsberg, installing the Nest series

Tah dah!!!!!!

Tah dah!!!!!!

Super husband SKJ working on the Bombs in a Box installation

Super husband SKJ working on the Bombs in a Box installation

My Mom, the best mom in the world, with the veggies

My Mom, the best mom in the world, with the veggies

Susan Brody making proscuitto breadsticks

Susan Brody making proscuitto breadsticks

Installation view #1, opening night

Installation view #1, opening night

Installation view #2, opening night

Installation view #2, opening night

Installation view #3, opening night

Installation view #3, opening night

Mike Davis and Deb Pang Davis sent me some photos of the event and with their blessing have allowed me to post them here.  Thank you Mike and Deb!!!

Susan with the Pingyao International Photo Festival entorage

Susan with the Pingyao International Photo Festival entourage

Susan and Randy discussing Lambda prints

Susan and Randy discussing Lambda prints

Deborah Pang Davis and Melissa Farlow in the center, my hubby on the far left.

Deborah Pang Davis and Melissa Farlow in the center, my hubby on the far left.

Susan speaking with the entorage from the Pingyao International Photography Festival

Susan speaking with the entourage from the Pingyao International Photography Festival

Wet Plate Collodion

I took a workshop with collodion expert Jody Ake last July and fell in love with the process.  The end product, an ambrotype, is truly seductive.  Here are 3 examples of plates I made in class.  They are 5×4″ and will be on display starting in January 2009 (omg) at the Froelick Gallery’s group show.