Inspiring women: Joni Sternbach

I came across the photography of Joni Sternbach while browsing 1stDibs on the weekend and was immediately arrested by her Surfland series. It took me a minute to process what I was looking at; vintage photographs or contemporary photographs shot and printed using archival techniques. The latter, it turns out.


Sternbach uses a process called the wet collodion process, which dates back to the 1850's. If you watch this video, you'll understand the complex steps in this process, shooting, processing and printing, and the gorgeous vagaries of the finished albumen print. Wet collodion was the second photographic process after the daguerreotype, but quickly fell out of favour due to its impracticality — the plate stays wet during the entire process.


Sternbach: "Often the mistakes are really quite beautiful. It’s a very finite way of working that’s not very flexible, but it gives me the opportunity to create something different in this world of fast digital technology. Some call it the digital backlash, but that’s not the main reason I do it." via


I'm as inspired by the subjects of these photographs as by the photographer and her methods. Other female photographers who use the collodion method are Sally Mann and Jill Enfield, who also hosts collodion workshops occasionally.

Joni Sternbach official website
Book: Surfland


All images © copyright Joni Sternbach
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