Northlight, a creative season in the landscape of Dunbar is currently running until 31st August.  Current artist in residence Alastair Cook is based at McArthur’s Store on the Cromwell harbour.

Alastair Cook

He is working with wet plate collodion, an antique photographic technology dating from the 1850’s.  Based in the old store building, Alastair has been able to master the process through repetitive working techniques and submerging himself in the process.  I quick visit on Saturday brought a different kind of submersion as the heavens opened to a North sea deluge.  This was after Alastair had been able to capture three portraits using the UVA filtering through the clouds.

The process involves applying a wet emulsion to a glass or tin plate, which is then placed inside a 1950’s camera that Alastair uses with and 1800’s lens.  The image is transferred onto the plate and then developed in the usual wet photography studio, in this case a converted toilet.

The images are truthful accounts, capturing the essence of the sitter.  I had to sit extremely still fo 3 seconds, not a long time, but time enough to move, blink, sneeze…..

The results are amazing with very fine detail capture in the emulsion in monochrome, with hints of colour and shades of hue.

It was great talking to Alastair and sharing a passion for alchemy in art, whether its etching plate, firing glass and developing photographic images.  Go and see what else is going on up in Dunbar – John Muirs birth place with fantastic coastal walks.


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