Artist's Statement: Kasia Wozniak on Fashion Photography Inspired by Sherlock Holmes

| 14 October 2014

Artist’s Statement: Kasia Wozniak has made a new fashion photo series for the Museum of London, inspired by the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

Click on the picture to launch the gallery

“I grew up in Poland and my dad was a photographer. He bought me my first camera when I was about seven years old.

I couldn’t take that many photos on it, as we didn’t have the money for film. But I would still take it with me everywhere.

My relationship with my first camera was almost like fighting solitude: a companion thing.

I’m fascinated by the idea of creating a photographic image that is both permanent and fragile, created once and never repeated.

I use the wet plate collodion process, one of the first photography techniques pioneered in the mid-19th century.

Wet Plate Collodion Ambrotype, Inspiration from the pages of Sherlock Holmes: "He hustled on his overcoat...” [A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle] "...the clothes are only the overcoat which is full of suggestive touches." [The Valley of Fear by Arthur Conan Doyle]
© Kasia Wozniak / Museum of London. Fashion credits: Coat: Anna Bezgubenko, MA Fashion Design Technology Menswear, London College of Fashion, 2014
I first came across the technique in ‘Photography's Antiquarian Avant-garde: The New Wave in Old Processes’ by Lyle Rexer.

It’s an incredible book that features many photographers and methods, from daguerreotypes and photograms to the work of Chuck Close, Sally Mann and Ansel Adams.

I saw it and thought: ‘I’m going to do it.’ A lot of people advised me against it, but I persevered and found a way that worked for me.

The first photo I took was of a single flower in a vase. I still have that series.

My images are the outcome of an elaborate ceremony. It begins with the preparation of chemical solutions; pouring these onto a glass or aluminium plate; placing it in the camera and exposing it to the subject.

It ends with developing the image in the darkroom. The final fixed plate becomes a hand-crafted photograph; an object in its own right in an age of digital image making.

I guess I am looking to question the authenticity of images and how photographs are viewed today.

In the studio, I tend to shoot on a large format camera dating from the early 1900s. I also have a field camera dating from the 1890s which is more portable.

A photo of a woman standing outside a brick urban studio
© Museum of London
I usually take dry plate cameras and adapt them for wet plate. I don’t mind if they are broken when I find them – I enjoy fixing them up.

I do take digital photos every now and then. But I just don’t feel the same connection to it as I do with wet plate photography.

There is a real alchemy involved that you don’t get with digital. I’m fascinated by the idea of creating something that is tangible.

I have long been inspired by Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. I couldn’t resist the chance to create a new and timeless fashion fantasy, using them as a springboard.

My photography is an incredibly manual process and uses a great deal of chemistry – almost alchemy.

I love how manual the wet plate process is: being in the darkroom; and the fact that I can mix my own chemistry and develop my photographs from scratch.

While mixing the chemical solutions needed to take my wet-plate photographs and developing in my dark room, I felt a great affinity with Sherlock Holmes. He often spends his days at the chemical laboratory, too.”

  • He wasn’t an Easy Gentleman to Describe: Fashion Photography Inspired by the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is at the Museum of London, London from October 15 2014 – March 1 2015. Sherlock Holmes: The Man who Never Lived and Will Never Die is at the museum from October 17 – April 12.

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