The ambrotype process (from Greek ambrotos, "immortal") or amphitype is a photographic process that uses the wet plate collodion process to create a negative photographic image on a sheet of glass using whick looks as a positive image when put upon a black background. It was invented by Frederick Scott Archer in 1851.
A peculiarity of the ambortype process is that all actions (emulsion application, photosensitization, exposure, development and fixing) must be done within 10 – 15 minutes, while the collodion, a solution of pyroxylin in ether, is still wet. This affects the photographic process, making it a spectacular display, where as the photographer and the photograph are both actors and spectators. The depth of tonal transitions, unexpected artifacts, the pose and the facial expression of the portray due to the duration of exposure altogether create a sensation of temporal estrangement and bring the viewer to another dimension…
The ambrotype is especially popular in the United States, where it is used as an authentic means for photographing re-enactments of the Civil War. However, despite the labor intensity of the process, the ambrotype found its place in all kinds of contemporary photography genres, from portrait to fashion and advertising photography.
We live in a high-technology world, where works of art existing in a single copy are attracting more and more attention. The more is the important that an image created by silver crystals and coated with a special lacquer based on African plants’ gums may be stored for unlimited time without losing its color and properties, which today allows us to watch the first ambortypes created in the middle of the 19th century.
I want to believe that the family files of the 21st century created using the past-days’ technology will be watched by many generations of our descendants, too.