Photographer Turns His Tricycle into a Portable Wet Plate Photography Darkroom

Wet Photography Traveling Darkroom

Photo: Michaël Tirat (left) | Solweig Wood (right)

French photographer Michaël Tirat has created a clever method to bring his love of wet plate photography on the road. By creating his own portable darkroom, he's able to travel, shoot, and print in a manner that harkens back to the itinerant photographers of the mid- to late-19th century. Tirat calls his traveling darkroom L'Atelier de l'Alchimiste (The Alchemist's Workshop) in a nod toward the magical chemistry that occurs when creating wet collodion photography.

While it only took two weeks for Tirat to build his traveling workshop, he spent much longer working out the perfect design in order to accommodate his equipment. Tirat first discovered wet plate photography in 2006 and spent two years experimenting with the chemistry in order to master the technique. Now, with the help of his portable darkroom, he's able to attend events across Bordeaux and take photographs of attendees on the spot.

For Tirat, part of the satisfaction is introducing people to a traditional photography technique they may not be familiar with. “When I tell them that I’m working on the wet plate process named collodion humide in French, they don’t know anything about [it]…,” Tirat tells My Modern Met. “Everyone is curious and wants to experiment with shooting a portrait with my old cameras. And when they discover all the steps, and the ‘magical' step of the fixer bath, they realize why I choose the name ‘alchemy.' A secret alchemy between chemicals, savoir-faire, and antique photography.”

Riding around town with his equipment is no easy task, as the mobile darkroom weighs an impressive 551 pounds (250 kg). But Tirat is in no hurry to arrive at his destinations quickly. Much like his photography, he enjoys the ride and the process.

Wet plate photographer Michaël Tirat mounted a darkroom on a tricycle.

Portable Darkroom

Portable Darkroom

This allows him to travel around with his own wet collodion photo studio.

Portable Wet Plate Darkroom

Portable Wet Plate Photo Studio

Wet Plate Photography

He often works at events where people sit for their portrait and watch as the magic develops.

Taking Wet Plate Photographs

Photo: Solweig Wood

L'Atelier de l'Alchimiste Wet Collodion Photography

Photo: Solweig Wood

Wet Plate Photography Processing

Photo: Solweig Wood

Wet Plate Photos Drying

Drying Wet Plate Photos

Photo: Solweig Wood

See more wet plate photographs taken while working with the traveling darkroom.

Wet Plate Portrait Photography

Wet Plate Portrait Photography

Wet Plate Portrait Photography

Collodion Photography

Wet Plate Photography

Curious how the darkroom works out in the open? Watch these videos to learn more.

L'Atelier de l'Alchimiste: Website | Instagram | Facebook

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by L'Atelier de l'Alchimiste.

Related Articles:

Tintype Photography: The Vintage Photo Technique That’s Making a Comeback

Creating a Time Machine with Wet Plate Collodion Prints

Winners of 2019 Wet Plate Competition All Use an Age-Old Photography Technique

Man Transforms a $200 Camper Trailer into a Giant Functional Camera and Darkroom

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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