Mental Collodion is an ongoing project consisting of wet plate collodion self-portraits and portraits to raise awareness and support people who are dealing with mental health and well-being issues.
The wet plate collodion process dates back to the early 1860’s, wherein a plate is coated with a light sensitive collodion solution, exposed and then developed all before the collodion solution has time to dry – giving the photographer little time to make their image.
My wet plate collodion art is born of the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent isolation restrictions. At the time of the first UK lockdown, I was already free-falling into my own version of hell. Suffering with intense flashbacks and PTSD, coupled with long-term grief and anxiety; I needed to get a grip of something and start healing. Wet plate collodion was the only process that I could engage with. Oftentimes I would spend entire days and nights in my cold, leaky garage, just trying to make an image on glass. I can remember the feelings associated with witnessing a portrait come to light in the chemicals, there was joy and accomplishment, I could breathe easily again. I was existing, concentrating and focusing on moving forward and being positive. You might assume the opposite when looking at my early self-portraits, but somehow, the process was extremely cathartic, as though I could capture these negative emotions and hold them in silver and glass, almost as if to say ‘that’s then, this is now’ – move on. I was acknowledging how I felt, documenting it all, and processing everything throughout the entire time that I was creating the plate (often in excess of 8 hours), I was becoming relaxed with the emotions and somehow, I was moving past any negative attributes with them. This was my process for many months. The prints you see in this initial exhibition are a record of my time in the first phase of COVID-19, moving through to plates of some incredibly brave people who saw my work and wanted to experience the same process – entrusting their feelings to me with the aim of inspiring positivity surrounding mental ill-health – leading to acknowledgement, insight, understanding and, the healing journey.Simon Riddell
Simon Riddell is a photographer who specialises in analogue and alternative forms of photography; and one of a small number of photographers world wide who utilise the wet plate collodion process. He works from a bespoke studio and darkroom located at the top of the picturesque Nigg Hill, Ross-Shire, in the Scottish Highlands.