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  • Writer's pictureDavid Eichholtz

Master wet-plate photographer Luther Gerlach

Master wet-plate photographer Luther Gerlach made the trek from Southern California to Santa Fe on July 8 in his travelling darkroom bus. Just like the 19th century photographer Matthew Brady, the bus was a complete photography studio on wheels. Only Luther’s was horse-powered, not horse-drawn.

Luther was in town as part of the exhibition Past is Present: Alternative Processes in Contemporary Photography at the David Richard Gallery on Pacheco Street. The bus was a special treat for visitors on the following Saturday afternoon for Luther was to present a start-to-finish demonstration of wet collodion printing. A feature of the demonstration was his hand-built 20 x 26 inch camera, The Griffiness, which was practically the size of a refrigerator. The event naturally drew a large gathering of photographers as well as the folks from Santa Fe-based Bostick & Sullvan, purveyors of chemicals and supplies for alternative photography. They were the kind co-sponsors for Luther’s demonstration.

With the bus parked in the front of the gallery and The Griffiness dominating the parking lot, Luther walked the audience through the process, step by step. After showing how the plate was prepped, he assembled the group in front of the bus for a commemorative portrait. Once the plate was exposed, people were invited into the bus to observe the developing.

Informative, engaging and entertaining, Luther’s passion for early photographic technology was amply shared with those in attendance and his demonstration truly brought the complexity of the process into sharp focus (pun intended).

Past is Present: Alternative Processes in Contemporary Photography runs through September 3. David Richard Gallery, 1570 Pacheco Street, A1, Santa Fe NM 87505

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