Photographer Captures the Cast of ‘Little Women’ in Traditional Wet Plate Portraits

Little Women Old Photographs

Jo March, played by Saoirse Ronan (Photo: Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures)

Greta Gerwig's Little Women celebrated the beloved coming-of-age story of the four March sisters living in 1800s Massachusetts. Recently, the award-winning movie released vintage portraits of the cast—including Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet, and Florence Pugh—taken by acclaimed cinema photographer Wilson Webb.

These dramatic, sepia-toned photographs were made using the collodion process—a photography style invented in 1851. This process, sometimes called tintype or wet plate photography, requires that the photo be taken while the plate is wet with light-sensitive chemicals and exposed before the plate dries. Webb worked with Little Women‘s Production Designer Jess Gonchor to set up appropriate backgrounds for each character near the interior set of the March family's home. The close proximity allowed the cast to sit for a photo in costume during the making of the film.

Each 8 x 10 inch photo required an extensive amount of time and care. It took Webb about 10 minutes to prepare, expose, and develop the plate, and another 30 minutes to clean, dry, and seal it with varnish on an open flame. “The actors had to sit very still,” Webb explained in the Twitter thread. “Not because the exposure was long but because the amount of image in focus is less than 1 inch deep. It takes 1o to 20 seconds to set up the plate to be exposed so if someone moved slightly the photo would be out of focus.”

In the end, Webb's arduous efforts paid off in spades. His photographs of Little Women‘s stars shine in their authenticity and imperfect details.

Photographer Wilson Webb captured the cast of Little Women in traditional portraits.

Little Women Old Photographs

Jo March, played by Saoirse Ronan (Photo: Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures)

Little Women Photography Process

Behind the scenes (Photo: Kimberly Scarsella)

He used a popular 1800s photography style called the collodion process to make the images.

Little Women Photography Process

Behind the scenes (Photo: Kimberly Scarsella)

It took Webb about 10 minutes to prepare, expose, and develop the photo, and another 30 minutes to clean, dry, and seal it with varnish on an open flame.

Little Women Photography Process

Closer look at the wet plate (Photo: Kimberly Scarsella)

Little Women Photography Process

Closer look at the wet plate (Photo: Kimberly Scarsella)

Little Women Old Photographs

Amy March, played by Florence Pugh (Photo: Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures)

Little Women Photography Process

Closer look at the wet plate (Photo: Kimberly Scarsella)

Little Women Photography Process

Closer look at the wet plate (Photo: Kimberly Scarsella)

Little Women Photography Process

Exposing the wet plate to an open flame (Photo: Kimberly Scarsella)

Little Women Old Photographs

Laurie, played by Timothée Chalamet (Photo: Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures)

Little Women Old Photographs

Meg March, played by Emma Watson (Photo: Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures)

Little Women Photography Process

Behind the scenes (Photo: Kimberly Scarsella)

Little Women Photography Process

Wet plate process (Photo: Kimberly Scarsella)

Little Women Old Photographs

Meg March and John Brooke, played by Emma Watson and James Norton (Photo: Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures)

Little Women Old Photographs

John Brooke, played by James Norton (Photo: Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures)

Little Women Old Photographs

Father March, played by Bob Odenkirk (Photo: Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures)

Little Women Old Photographs

Friedrich Bhaer, played by Louis Garrel (Photo: Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures)

Little Women Old Photographs

Beth March, played by Eliza Scanlen (Photo: Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures)

Little Women Old Photographs

Beth March, played by Eliza Scanlen (Photo: Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures)

Little Women Old Photographs

Mr. Laurence, played by Chris Cooper (Photo: Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures)

Little Women Old Photographs

Hannah, played by Jayne Houdyshell (Photo: Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures)

Little Women Old Photographs

Marmee March, played by Laura Dern (Photo: Wilson Webb/Columbia Pictures)

Wilson Webb: Website | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Wilson Webb.

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Margherita Cole

Margherita Cole is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and illustrator based in Southern California. She holds a BA in Art History with a minor in Studio Art from Wofford College, and an MA in Illustration: Authorial Practice from Falmouth University in the UK. When she’s not writing, Margherita continues to develop her creative practice in sequential art.

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