Photographer creates coronavirus stop motion animation using large format wet plate photography

Mar 14, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Photographer creates coronavirus stop motion animation using large format wet plate photography

Mar 14, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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There is no doubt that the current coronavirus situation is affecting the lives of much of the world’s population. Events are being cancelled, schools closed, people are “self-isolating” and entire countries have been locked down. It seems like nobody can escape its effects anywhere. How we respond to those effects, though, is often quite personal.

For wet plate photographer, Markus Hofstätter, the response is to make art. It’s how he responds a lot of things that bother him or affect his life in a meaningful way. Naturally, his preferred medium is wet plate photography. But Markus went a little further than normal with this shooting seven separate images, which he turned into the stop motion animation you see above.

If something bothers my mind, I have to make an art out of it. Sadly in this moment it’s the virus – so I put it on wet plates and made a animation out of these seven plates I shot. It fits also to the Collodium process – no touching and no breathing the chemicals as you do not want to touch or breath the virus.

– Markus Hofstätter

Markus posted a behind the scenes video to his YouTube channel showing how he shot each of the images, to create the final animation.

YouTube video

Markus tells DIYP that the whole process to prepare and shoot the images was around four hours in total. Each individual image was essentially starting over from scratch. With wet plate photography, you can’t just prepare them all at once, then shoot all the shots, and then develop them all together. Each plate had to be prepared, shot and developed before moving onto the next one.

We had to figure out how to fix my hands on the same spot and how to move the plush virus from one point to the next. For the virus, we used a boom stand and for my hands, we mounted nylon string from the chair up onto my ceiling.

Each of the seven wet plate photographs was then photographed digitally to turn them into the final animation on the computer.

It isn’t obvious in the final shots, but in the behind the scenes video, you can see the nylon string on either side of Markus’ chair to guide his hands into position for each shot. Markus told us that he showed his final animation to a friend who told him that this was probably the most expensive way possible to shoot a movie. I think his friend is probably right!

It’s an intriguing idea, shooting an animation on wet plate, and one we’re not likely to see come in a feature-length format any time soon, and a very interesting take on representing the current coronavirus pandemic – especially given some of the parallels between attempting to avoid COVID-19, and the precautions Markus has to take around the wet plate chemicals.

Images used with permission.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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