The Wet Plate


They worked so hard to eliminate the noise, artificiality, evidence of imperfection.  Audio recording techniques improved to the point of allowing for the production of a flawless quality.

And we didn’t like it.

So… now sound engineers introduce back small artifacts of defect.  It’s as though the stylus runs through the groove of vinyl once again… complete with intermittent clicks and the occasional hiss at certain points in the phonic spectrum.  Imperfection returned.

So too with image-making.  Digital sensors are tirelessly tuned to reduce all evidence of noise.  We aim to capture in near dark and demand that our processors comply, to leave us without any form of visual cacophony.

We’ve come a long way from the days of the wet plate with it’s overwhelming testimony to imperfection.  On such prints, you could easily inspect the places where light burned into chemical, where liquid flowed and stalled.  But as in the audio world, we add some back to modern images.  We long for patina, for clues of our own imperfect human involvement.

Perhaps it is in the imperfection where art lives.  Perhaps it is in variety and unpredictability, clicks and hiss and noise… and all forms both subtle and obvious of cacophony where charm, allure, and beauty reside.

So too with us as the created, perhaps.

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