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When Eric Robinson was an undergraduate student in Cinema & Photography at SIU Carbondale in the late 1990s and early 2000s, photography was still a film-based art. Fast forward 10 years to graduate school, and digital photography is now the norm. Because Robinson disliked the look of digital images so much, he decided to devote his graduate studies to reviving wet plate photography. He makes his own collodion, a special developing "brew" in which cotton is dissolved on acids and solvents to form a viscous liquids, and cuts his own glass plates. Robinson has also built a mobile darkroom, which allows him to develop photos while in the field by pouring collodion onto a plate and bathing it in silver nitrate to sensitize the substance into a type of film. The plate must stay dark and wet throughout development.
Robinson also shares that he has adapted a light-tight Speed Graphic film holder to hold a wet plate in his large format camera. If the chemicals are mixed properly and he gets the exposure and development times right, Robinson says the images he creates exceed the resolution and contrast ratio of the output from today's best digital cameras.
Although most of this segment focuses on Robinson technical prowess, we also learn how he struggled to use this medium to create art. As a person of mixed race, Robinson is aware of how people who look, sound, or act "different" are sometimes viewed by others in a negative light. To examine the concept of stigma and its impact on individuals and communities, Robinson has created a series of striking and provocative portraits of people who are often marginalized by society.
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