The Making of Alex Timmermans’ Stunning ‘Swan Lake’

It’s a cry photographers know all to well, “the final shot of the day was the one, I’d finally cracked it” and that rings true for Alex Timmermans’ most recent wet plate collodion creation ‘Swan Lake’. A man who strives in meeting a bar of perfection set so high he’s known to keep working on a set until sheer beauty is realised. Just take a look at the final plate.
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Swan Lake by Alex Timmermans, 2015

What is so striking about this image alters depending on your perspective. Initially, the swan, which we know as a beautiful but fierce creature is mid-dynamic, calling upon a dancer somehow floating on water in a self embrace. The stage looks incredibly dangerous however Timmermans has managed to transcend that danger and created a visually stunning wet plate. And from the perspective of an artist working with a photographic technology first used in 1850s the idea is mind-boggling.

We caught up with Timmermans to ask him a bit about how he went about achieving what is surely to settle into his archive as a stand out masterpiece. Months of preparation were involved with the final shoot taking an entire day and using a total of eight to nine plates. When we first reached out regarding the image and how it was made Alex told us filmmaker Patrice Lesueur had undertaken a ‘making of’ film for Swan Lake which has in this last hour been made public.

Timmermans uses a dedicated 12×12″ wet plate camera with a Dellmayer 5D Petzval lens. He told us that in the past six years he has only shot using the wet plate collodion method with the preparation of plates, chemicals and working materials all undertaken by himself. Some behind the scenes photographs give us a peek into how the process was achieved – it doesn’t make it look any easier.

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Swan Lake is a 1 second exposure onto black aluminium featuring model Heather May. The shoot was a gruelling five hour process which resulted in one single, perfect 12 x 12″ tin type image. The photograph is available as prints from Alex Timmermans represented galleries, however he says the original will forever stay in his collection, treasured like a photographer keeps his negatives.


All images and media used with explicit permission from Alex Timmermans. 

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