Ian Ruhter Shoots Metric from What the Fleet on Vimeo.
(This video was shot by Lauren Graham, Im not sure how she filmed it while she was art directing the shoot. I guess its because she's that amazing.)
It started off as an average day. I woke up, had my coffee, then phone rang. It was my good friend Lauren Graham. She asked me if I want to shoot the band Metric with the wet plate collodion process. I didn’t even have to think about it; I just answered when and where. She said they were in town shooting for the Jay Leno show and they had a pretty busy schedule but she would check. She let me know they would be done at 5 pm or so and want to do it. My first thought was about the amount of daylight left in the day after 5pm. Lauren suggested we do it close to the Leno studio which is in Burbank. She works at the Jackass office around the corner. I hesitated and said yes, but I could not think of a worse location than a parking lot in the valley. This was an opportunity that I didn’t want to let slip by, so I called my right hand man James about doing a test that night. I stayed up late in to the am shooting photos, mixing extra chemicals and prepping everything. We felt good. This was the most prepared we had been for any wet plate shoot.
The next day rolled around quick, we grabbed a coffee a loaded up the car and started driving out to the valley. Lauren and Kate Power met us at the Jackass location. It was every thing I imagined it would be; hot, boring, and flat, with nothing interesting around. There were just some off white walls like you would find in the back of a Walmart. But I was ok with it because I knew it wasn’t about the location; it was about the band.
We set up the portable dark room as I wanted to shoot another test before they arrived. Keep in mind, I have not been working with this process very long and it has a mind of it own. I cooked up a plate and loaded in to the camera. I shot a photo thinking I would have to do some minor adjustments to the exposure time. I started developing it and noticed something was very wrong. My heart sank. There was barley an image on the plate. I started to panic I had never seen anything like this before. I changed up the silver nitrate; that is usually where the problems are with this process. I took another photo. It was worse. Now I was tripping. I just keep thinking Metric was on the way they were probably tired from filming all day and I was about to waste their time. I asked everyone if I should call them and cancel the shoot. They told me to shoot one more test. I change up the last possible thing. I shoot one more, and as we watched it develop I could tell it was even worse. This time there was nothing at all on the plate. Now I started really freaking out. My friend James said "It will work, I know it will." In my head I was like "Ya, and it's going to start raining hundred dollar bills." Right then a black van with tinted windows rolled up. James said "It's time to ride or die!"
(Double click image to enlarge)Then the switch went off; that’s when I got in to photo mode.
They got out in true rock star fashion. Emily Haines walked over to us with a bottle of champagne in hand. I just played it cool, because the last thing you want to do is let the subject feel any tension or stress for you. People feel that energy and it translates through the photos. The show must go on and I was about to put on the performance of my life. I switched the fixer just to entertain myself but I knew it wasn’t going to do anything The problems were in the developing. We were ready to shoot. I turned around said "Hi, how are you?" I walked them across this parking lot explaining how amazing the images were going to be. I never doubted myself from that point. I set it up and shot it like nothing was wrong but I knew there was. I walked back to the dark room with everyone following, stepped in to the darkness and said fuck it, pouring the developer onto the plate. I could see it was working. I emerged form the darkness and there were 9 people waiting to see what had happened. I had a beautiful image in my hands. I dropped it into the fix. Everyone was in awe of what we created. We shoot 3 more plates and the day was over.
(Double click image to enlarge)
This was my all-time favorite photo shoot. It amazed me how stoked everyone was on the 1800s photography process. When I shoot digital no one is ever that stoked or involved in the process. This is what photography was created for; experimenting, pushing yourself and pushing the art from. These are one of a kind images that cannot be duplicated. This was an amazing day, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to share it with my good friends. I even made some new friends along the way. Thank you for helping me make this happen.