We recently went to a WOWTalks event in Brooklyn, where we saw James Weber talking about his career and the phases he has been through as a photographer in the game for almost 2 decades now.
Weber has been creating photographic art for over 19 years in a variety of photographic mediums including wet plate, film, polaroid and digital. He specializes in fashion, beauty, portrait photography and much more. Creating beautiful images is what James enjoys doing, and he explains it best himself:
“Photography for me is about the beauty of life. I try to capture the intensity of the human spirit, the beauty of the human form, and the wonder that is nature.”
It’s hard to categorize this New York photographer. He’s not strictly a fashion photographer but he has worked with the likes of COVERGIRL and Finesse. Nor is he strictly fine art, although he immersed himself in the second oldest photographic process ever created, wet plate collodion (more info below) .
Today we look into his series “The Road Less Travelled” which came together in Sept/Oct of 2014. His goal was to travel across the country and go off the main roads to find the people and places that are off the beaten path. If you go back 150 years, Matthew Brady and his company of photographers were riding around in horse drawn wagons documenting the America they saw using the same chemicals and cameras. I wanted to take a similar journey to follow in their footsteps. I try to imagine these photographers coming back from their trip and showing their images of places far and wide on metal(tintypes) to the townspeople that most would never see otherwise. There was a magic to photography that I think is sometimes missing today.
James and a friend loaded up his RV with food supplies, tin, glass, to shoot tintypes and ambrotypes, for a 40 day journey from New York to California and back. Next came his 8″x10″ and 4″x5″ large format cameras, chemistry, dark-box (mobile darkroom), and all of the many supplies that they would need on the trip and headed out. His goal was to travel across the country and go off the main roads to find the people and places that are off the beaten path.
James ended up driving through 20 states and many of America’s beautiful National Parks, shooting many different people and landscapes along the way. They made it all the way to the California coastline and dipped their toes in the water of the Pacific Ocean before turning around to head back home.
For James the real take-away from the journey was meeting all of the wonderful people. Their stories make up the huge patchwork that is America. There was one subject in particular that caught his eye, and that was Carl Raddobah. They met him along the way in Montana in a grocery store parking lot, and from there on out he got invited to follow Carl to his house. Here’s a little audio segment from the visit with Carl: https://vimeo.com/120993659
James: “This is a small selection of images from the trip. More will be coming out in the book and gallery show that will happen later on this year. The body of work, however is far from finished. This is but the first of many trips to come as I feel I just scratched the surface of what I would like to do”.
So, some people might be wondering what this wet plate technique is all about?
Wet plate is shot on old wooden large format bellows cameras that were initially made from the Civil War era and lasted all the way through the Great Depression. By creating your own emulsion and shooting on glass(ambrotypes) or metal (tintypes), it makes each plate a unique piece of art. You could never get the same image twice even if you tried due to it’s hand crafted nature.
“Wet plate collodion is a chemical process as much as it is a photographic process” James said. It takes you back to the roots of the first recorded images. “It’s getting back to the darkroom which adds a uniqueness to each image. It’s part Breaking Bad, mixing up the chemistry, and part Ansel Adams trekking up mountains with a large format camera to get the shot. The process slows you down so that you take in all of the minute details of your subject before you shoot. Because of this necessary attention to detail, it’s made him a better photographer.
James is a fashion, beauty, and fine art photographer located in Chelsea, New York. This year, his work has been shown at Art Palm Beach(artpalmbeach.com) and the Miami International Art Fair(mia-artfair.com) as a part of Castle Fitzjohns Gallery(www.castlefitzjohns.com).His commercial work can be seen at www.jamesweberstudio.com. His wet plate work can be found at: www.jameswebergallery.com. Instagram & Twitter: @James_Weber. Facebook: @James Weber Gallery.