Christian Klant’s portfolio was awarded a 2019 Rfotofolio Merit Award. We are pleased to share his work on Rfotofolio.
Would you please tell us a little about yourself?
I’m based in Berlin, Germany and turn forty this year.
After studying economics and working as a consultant in a past life, I’m thankful that I found my way into professional photography. After experimenting with different analogue techniques beside my bread and butter jobs, I got in contact with the wet plate collodion process and got hooked immediately. Even now, years later, it’s still my main process. My current go to format for wet plates is 16×20.
I’ve used several handmade printing processes like platinum-palladium, carbon, salt, and albumen printing, cyanotype, and even some good old silver gelatin printing. I taught workshops and held lectures about my work, realized several personal projects and photographed commercial campaigns on wet plates.
Beside that the list of my exhibitions is becoming more and more international.
Where did you get your photographic training?
I’m actually self-taught from the very beginning. I never learned, studied or assisted the “proper way”. I still wish I would have the time to study arts and photography, but luckily that wasn’t needed to make a living from photography. In the beginning I felt like a dry sponge and I absorbed everything related to photography.
I was good in getting myself into situations where I needed to obtain a certain knowledge or skill to get the project done. And luckily, I was also good at getting there almost always on time. Some international collogues say I’m very German (or accurate) in what I’m doing. Well, let’s say if I do something, then I want to do it right. It’s part of my character and helpful in some aspects.
Why do you create?
There are two reasons why I create. The first one is simple: I get a commission. And I’m happy that the majority of my jobs gives me a wide range of freedom to create what/how I want.
The second reason is much more important: Because I feel the strong need to express myself. Sometimes it’s an urge to produce a certain picture, the other time a whole series. Sometimes it’s just to play around with (new) chemicals or equipment, the other time I want to tell something through my photography. But always it’s coming out of myself and I’m doing it just for myself. Thoughts about whether or not I want to show my work always wait in the second row.
Who has had an influence on your creative process?
I’m always impressed by seeing how people think out of the box. Showing something from a perspective I never thought about before, when people just do what others claim to be impossible. That motivates me to push my own boundaries, my own comfort zone.
Usually I try to think in “what is or could be possible” categories – for myself and for the process I’m using.
Of course, I’m influenced by other photographers, too. For example, I truly love the work of Peter Lindbergh, Irving Penn, and Karl Blossfeldt.
Please tell us about an image (not your own) that has stayed with you over time.
When I started working with the wet plate collodion process, I was searching for examples showing the true potential of this historic process. The work of Mark Osterman is one of the persons constantly showing what kind of quality he is able to achieve with wet plates (and other processes). He is giving a lot to the community. There is also Luther Gerlach. He is using a wide range of historic processes at a level of quality that most others will probably never achieve.
Another person is. Gustave Le GrayHe was one of the first landscape photographers. His seascapes from 1855 to 1860 are deeply impressive to me. How was he able to produce such a quality in both negatives and printing with the possibilities at that time?
Today I’m able to buy lab grade chemicals online, distilled water from a drugstore and pack all my equipment in a car. For Le Gray (and the other photographers at that time) everything was a bit more challenging. But if they have been able to produce such quality work under such circumstances, I should be able to do the same.
The picture “The Great Wave”, an albumen print from two wet plate collodion glass negatives, is one of my reference points.
What image of yours would you say taught you an important lesson.?
Exactly one year ago I photographed at the Algarve, Portugal for my project GUARDIANS. It was quite some effort to prepare and plan a wet plate shooting with a 16×20” camera 3.500km from my base. So, I developed some expectations, I wanted to do it right. The day before the following picture was taken I failed. The whole day was a disaster. My expectations have been hidden hard by the reality, I hit myself bloody at my own camera and I got frustrated and exhausted. What happened? First, I set my own boundaries too tight for improvements beside my own expectations. ? Was soll das heißen? Because of the tides and light changing very fast I got in a rush trying to move and act fast. Not a good idea whilst working with wet plates.
At night while thinking about what I’m able to do differently I wrote into my notebook: “Leave room for the unexpected. Do everything as slow as possible. Meditate or just wait while the plate is sensitizing. Don’t try to be efficient.”
The following plate is the very first exposure I made in the next morning. And I remember my feelings. It was very touching to me and I wrote into my notebook: “There is magic in the picture. Thank You!” I was back in the game.
What makes a good day for you creatively speaking?
The grin on my face at the end of the day!
This usually happens when I’m able to get into the flow of creating, when all the knowledge and equipment are stepping back and my intuition is taking the lead.
Please tell us about the work you submitted for the Rfotofolio Call.
I submitted my series GUARDIANS. A series of 16×20” wet plate collodion seascapes, photographed as tintypes. There is a long story behind this pictures. Storywise it’s a metaphor for change containing the elements and their impact. I don’t know if it’s possible to include a video in this interview. But if so, here is the video about GUARDIANS.
If you could spend a day with any other photographer or artist living or passed who would it be?
Oh, I would love to spend a day (or better a month) with Gustave Le Gray or Carleton E. Watkins.
How important is the photographic community to you?
Very important! I believe in exchange and learning from each other. Sometimes I’m in contact with photographers from Europe, the U.S. within the same day discussing details regarding equipment or handling of the wet plate process or other historic printing techniques.
What equipment have you found essential in the making of your work?
I would call my imagination and my hands the most important parts of my equipment. Most of the other hardware can be replaced. But generally speaking, my 16×20” Chamonix and my Eskimo darkroom tent are just very useful!
Is there something in photography that you would like to try in the future?
I already tried a lot of different processes. Some of them I like more, some less. And it’s always important for me to find a good match of subject and process or printing technique. What I never tried so far are Heliogravures and Daguerreotypes. They are on my bucket list.
What’s on the horizon?
Right now, I’m in touch with different galleries for an exhibition of GUARDIANS. I’m already feeling a space filled with 13 largescale original wet plates.
For my next projects I want to work with 16×20” wet plate glass negatives and carbon prints. In both, quality and esthetics, the most beautiful combination I can imagine.
Thank you Christian. To learn more about the work of Christian Klant please visit his site at Christian Klant.