Ambrotype & Collodion wet plate process, Christian Chambenoit


The ambrotype ( from Ancient Greek: ἀνβροτός — “immortal”, and τύπος — “impression” )  invented by James Ambrose Cutting in 1854, is a photograph that creates a positive image on a sheet of glass using the wet plate collodion process (invented in 1851 in England by Frank Scott Archer.)



A black glass plate is coated with a collodion emulsion, then, it is sensitized to light by immersing the plate into a silver nitrate bath. The plate is loaded into the camera and exposure is made. Exposure takes about 2 to 30 seconds.

After been removed from the camera, the plate is developed in the darkroom by pouring a ferrous sulphate solution called developer. The remaining of silver particles untouched by light are removed and reveal the final image which is fixed by a secret recipe bath. After drying, the plate is coated with a warm varnish made of sandarac gum and lavender essential oil, used by Stradivarius for his violins.

The plate is ready for hundreds years of archiving, ready to travel from descendants to descendants.



Christian Chambenoit studied art at the Met de Penninghen’s studio and later at the prestigious school of Art Deco in Paris [ENSAD].

He worked as a photographer and painting reporter for magazines such as Grands Reportages and GEO. It was journalism that initially brought him to Asia in 1995. In Taipei and Shanghai, Christian then worked as a photo director and art director for magazines.

Since 1997 and in parallel to his commercial work, Christian started pictorial research influenced by scientific imagery, museum aesthetics, time passing effects, and functionality. The result of this exploration is his experimentation with the use of different technics, especially wet plate collodion photography.

“This technic from the mid-19th century is well known for the difficulties of the process. Each piece is unique and non-reproducible. The subjects are immortalized on a glass plate coated with silver salts then varnished according to an ancient recipe.

The reproducibility has always bothered me. I consider photography as an equal art to painting, sculpture or music. The essence of the art piece seems to fade away during the printing process, especially nowadays with the accuracy of digital. I work with wet plate technic not by nostalgia or extremism of tradition but rather for its physical form, its own life during the hardly controllable process. It’s a well-known partner that gives me each time a different result. The technical difficulties and the physical components as silver salts, ether, varnish and more, liberated me from the digital jail where I felt for more than 10 years.”

Christian’s works have been exhibited in Paris, Taipei, Beijing and Shanghai; they are part of galleries, art centers and private collections in France and Asia.