Gwen Wilkinson. Golden Fleece Award Winner 2011

Medium: Wet plate collodion photography


Window Pillar Huntington Folly Bridge Ballymoon


I need financial assistance for the development of my ongoing project "Edifice". Through the historical medium of wet-plate collodion, images made on glass and metal plates, the project explores the built heritage of Ireland's rural landscape. I aim to create a body of work consisting of up to 70 plates and I need to offset expenses incurred in undertaking this year long project.

The means by which this project is presented is an important part in terms of generating a public dialogue around the work. It is envisioned that this will take the form of exhibitions at the Norman Gallery, Co Wexford, PhotoIreland Festival, Dublin and at Bievier Photography Festival, France in 2011. A proportion of the award would be used to assist with the costs of mounting an exhibition of the plates, and with the design and production of a printed catalogue.

Since I initiated this project in 2010 it has been self-funded. Financial support will help to alleviate time and monetary constraints and accelerate the development of this project. In so doing it will also enhance my career prospects as a full time visual artist.

Extract from Artist Statement

For the past two years I have been involved in the exploration and practice of plate photography, specifically the creation of direct positive images such as wet collodion. These one-of-a-kind images are made directly onto glass (ambrotypes) and metal plates (ferrotypes). The original method was invented in 1852. The creation of these unique handmade artefacts is a difficult and labour intensive process.

"Edifice" is a body of work that I began working on in 2010. The project explores the built heritage of our rural landscape. From abandoned hillside cottages to relics of great architectural optimism, the images in this series explore aspects of our collective history. The spectral images in this series invite the observer to revisit familiar sites, such as the grandiose ruins of Wilton House, Co. Wexford and Ballymoon House, Co. Carlow and endeavour to reveal an alternative manifestation of these remarkable structures. Collodion's unique aesthetic gives a half remembered, dream quality evoking the feeling of memory. It is hauntingly beautiful and reveals deep, poignant qualities about the structures I record.

Wet-plate collodion is the perfect expression for this project as it too relates to abandonment. As a photographic process it was abandoned and forgotten just as many of the structures in this project have been. I also embrace it for its imperfections; the variances of the 19th century lenses and cameras I use, the rough edges of the plates, fingerprints, ridges and swirls all echo our own human imperfections. Participation in the field of wet collodion not only helps to preserve knowledge of the past, but also helps to carry some of photography's best attributes into the future.

This project is designed to be a personal interpretation of what is left at the site of these structures and the feelings and memories they generate. All of the locations are places where I have felt a certain kind of "presence of the past".