Ian Ruhter

Worlds Largest Ambrotype



The pioneering spirit was one of the first things that drew me into the wet plate collodion process. I became very fascinated with studying the men and women who worked with this art form in the 19th century. They were on the forefront of art, science and exploration. I wanted to know what it would feel like to work in this manner.

In 2011 I was accredited with making the world’s largest wet plate collodion tintype. This achievement was the greatest moment in my photography career. Not long after I became fixated on making a giant ambrotype in this size, but the thought of actually doing it was impossible at this point.  

Similar to the Tintype an Ambrotype is a glass plate direct positive that is also created using the collodion film. Creating a giant glass plate would propose a new set of challenges. The actual quarter-inch glass plate weighs close to 100 pounds. The thought of handling a plate of this size that was coated with liquid film while working in the confined space of the camera truck seemed inconceivable. On top of this it would all have to be done in the dark.  

One of the groundbreaking discoveries came once I gained access to 19th century literature about chemistry options and how to process these plates. It took five years to acquire all the information and to rebuild the pieces needed to test this theory.  In the spring of 2016 we created the world's largest ambrotype, 46" x 59". This was a monumental moment. By allowing myself to work with photography and build on the ideals from 150 years ago I was able to push this process into the future and make history.