Failure is an Option

  • "Failure is NOT an option"1 if you are in charge of bringing three astronauts back to Earth in a malfunctioning spacecraft. However it is the likely option if you are dealing with art and science, especially with (traditional) photography which is a mixture of both. When I started to experiment with the historic wet collodion process about two years ago, I tried to make photographs of a gypsum bust under pretty much constant lighting setup in order to minimize the variables affecting the final image. During my learning phase I made dozens of failed plates until I could come up with a relatively decent one. I experienced almost all problems a wet collodion photographer can encounter with chemistry, materials, equipment and technique. Fortunately instead of throwing those failed plates away, I scanned them, cataloged them and learned a lot from them. Now after almost two years and over six hundred technically successful plates I reached a level where I cannot reproduce those failures even if I desperately try to do so … and I ask myself "Were they really failures?"

    1) A phrase attributed to Gene Kranz, flight director of Apollo 13 mission.