Nowadays, anyone can capture the photo of a mountain vista with the snap of a button. Taking photos has become so easy that, in a way, viewers have become desensitized to the image before them. Photographer Emma Howell, however, chooses to implement a rather unique method of documenting the sights she sees—one which predates even the Civil War. By utilizing an old technique called the wet plate collodion process, Howell is able to develop images of majestic mountain tops and ocean waves onto handblown glass, presenting a whole new way of looking at photographs.
“Most people are not able to experience a place that is unaffected by the human presence,” Howell told Wired. “So I’m creating a way for others to experience this in a way that’s more than looking at a flat print of the cliché beach we all see and know.”
To create these extraordinary glass photographs, Howell had to create a special camera from scratch. After studying old, large format cameras and much trial and error, Howell completed her own after six weeks. On the other hand, documenting the photos themselves involves cooking up photosensitive chemicals for coating the glass, exposing the images with her camera, and finally developing them, a process which takes about 15 minutes. Whereas most photographers need only point and shoot, Howell must study and select her composition meticulously. "When I bring the glass into the landscape and make my exposures, I choose the composition based on the glass vessels," she said. Ripples in the glass, for example, are supposed to mirror ocean waves and rough mountain edges.
While Howell's photography may take more time to shoot and develop, her concept of printing images onto handblown glass is an innovative new way to think about the art of photography—how photos can now transcend the 2D level to further connect with viewers.