Doel Belgium on Wet Plate

A couple of months ago Marieke contacted me regarding something collodion. She was one of the attendees on a collodion workshop I gave at the IKA in Mechelen (BE). She is working on her graduation project and wanted to make some plates for this. So she asked me if she could join me on one of my field trips. For me this meant an opportunity to actually plan a field trip (today I realised it was actually 2 YEARS ago!). We agreed on a price, time and place and yesterday came the day we went to visit a small village called Doel in Belgium.


Doel is near Antwerp, a small village near its harbour. In the sixties the Big Harbour of Antwerp wanted to expand and found Doel to be what it wanted. The people were bought out in order for them to leave but not all of them did. The population dropped from a 1300 inhabitants to 188 in 2010 and around 10 nowadays (not sure about that last number but someone told me yesterday that there where only 3 houses left that had people living in them). From what I’ve heard Antwerp has dropped the plan (for now) as it’s too expensive to continue. Yeah…


So, now we have a village that is pretty much abandoned. But not for real! I was surprised of its vividness! There are two cafes, one in an old windmill which is nothing but dead. Whole families come there on their day off to enjoy the weather, the view (on the nuclear power plant ;-)) and of course lots of photographers. We had an awesome day!


We had one darkroom and one camera so the working speed was pretty low. Marieke shot positives on black glass, I was looking to shoot some clear glass. The tricky part for her was to find her way back to working with collodion after having done only one workshop more than a year ago. I wasn’t able to go with her in the darkroom tent to guide her there so it was rather tough to create proper images seeing the conditions we worked in. We had a lot of fun though! I managed to make three clear glass ambrotypes but hope to get back there soon to try some more and better myself. It’s a wonderful location, heck, even the ride through the harbour fields is extremely fascinating, at times it looks like a moon scenery (not that I’ve ever been there ;-))!

The sweet darkroom setup in an even sweeter surrounding. Luckily I was able to park the car real close after we chose our location. Note to self: buy something on wheels to lug your stuff around! We first walked the perimeters to see where we would set up everything and I made some photos with the M6 and a couple impressions with the iPhone which you can see here (the only colour photos in this post).



The photo below is the courtesy of Marieke Bakkes and is of me focusing the camera for my shot down the streets of Doel.


The light was really FULL of UV so my exposure times were around 3 seconds on f/16, including the triple time overexposure for my clear glass images. There is still some work for me to be looking at because the images are far from perfect. I see stripes / striations; could be a pouring issue, or too little rocking of the plate, or too little alcohol in the collodion to make it flow properly over the plate due to the hot temperature. I have small black dots on the plate, not sure what that is? Dust contamination but from what? I have to practice on the pouring (4×5″ while holding the plate in the corner is really finicky) so I’m looking to use a suction cup next time. I hope to get back there soon, on my own though, to be able to work on my skills and plates more.

This image is of my mum and dog watching over my camera standing on the dike while we are pouring the last plate you’ll be seeing in a bit.


Backgroud info:
4×5″ Clear Glass Ambrotypes
Exposure +- 3 to 4 seconds f/16
Scanned using the Epson V700, not yet printed.




I hope to print them soon in lith to see how far I can stretch these images. But I’m not 100% satisfied with these so hope to get back there soon, hopefully with my Linhof so I can save on lugging heaviness around.

From what I’ve just read in a piece from the Volkskrant (Dutch newspaper, thanks Mr. Neighbour) the Belgian government agreed past Tuesday with the harbour expanding and Doel being torn down. This means I will have to go back at least this very season. There are worst things in life, me thinks 😉

I guess that was it for now…thank you Marieke, I hope you had a great day, I sure did, and thank you mom, dad and brothels for helping me looking after my stuff -x-

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