Since I first discovered the freedom a driver’s license offers a teenager, the stretch of highway denoted as U.S. 301 through rural North Florida has intrigued me. A bustling truck stop at the intersection of 301 and Interstate 10 marks the starting point of a path south through small towns with roadside interests and oddities along the way. They call out to slow down and stop for a minute, to buy a sack of boiled peanuts from the nearest roadside stand and take a closer look. For this on-going project, I have chosen to photograph the scenes and characters I encounter with the antique, wet-plate collodion tintype process that was first introduced in the 19th century. Collodion encourages a slow, deliberate pace due to the steps involved in pouring a finicky emulsion onto metal plates, capturing images with a large-format camera processing on site. Exposures can last several seconds and must be developed immediately in a portable dark box. The result is a mirror image in silver that reveals incredible clarity. However, any object in motion during the long exposure is rendered as a ghostly blur or—if moving at too fast a pace— disappears outright. The many variables of the process introduced by hand-mixed photographic chemicals, temperature, humidity, and unique pours of collodion make each plate a one-of-a- kind object. This series of tintypes is an exercise in slowing down to more closely examine the uniqueness of this little stretch of roadway that I have mostly observed for the last 20 years, driving past at 50 mph (or more). Each scene represented pulled at my curiosity enough to make me put on the brakes and spend some time on the side of the road. Like the different artifacts left on the plates by the process, each subject and each story represented is a culmination of the steps that brought it to those calm seconds of pause in front of the lens.
September 19, 2015