A little over a year ago, as I endeavoured to rediscover my authentic photographic voice (more on that journey coming in a future blog post), I thought a studio might be the answer I was looking for. I managed to secure a small studio through Xchanges Gallery & Studios, an art collective I'd been a member of for some time. Tiny might be an understatement—it measured about 8 feet wide and 20 feet long. Nevertheless, I was optimistic that I could make the small space work, and initially, it did. The rent was extremely affordable, so I could put up with the small, cramped space while it enabled me to dust off my studio lights and make some tintype portraits and pet photos in a studio environment.
As time went on I had the opportunity to expanded my little studio by taking over another section of the shared room. I gained a bit more square footage, and despite the awkward 'L' arrangement of the room I managed to undertake slightly more substantial projects, including additional pet portraits, tintype headshots, and full length artistic figure studies for my ‘Elemental’ project in this cramped space,.
After a few months, another studio opened across the hall. While it offered slightly less square footage and maintained the 'L' arrangement of a shared space, it was actually more usable and brighter. In this new space, I could set up a 9-foot seamless background paper, though the 'L' shape of the room limited the full potential of the wider background.
Then in June I was hit with an unexpected 45% rent hike, rendering the impractical studio to be financially burdensome. Suddenly, my once-affordable and quirky studio experiment transformed into a prohibitively expensive proposition. The space couldn't accommodate larger projects, making the increased cost unjustifiable. Despite my best efforts, the space just didn't function well as a photo studio, and the new rental rate made it impossible to continue. There is also talk of further increases in the new year.
So, what's next? Faced with these challenges and uncertainties, I made the decision to return to working on location, as I had done for many years prior to the studio experiment. This return to the simpler way of working seemed to be the most logical choice. Soon you will find me back out working on outdoor and environmental location portrait projects in wet plate, film and digital methods.
While I will be bidding farewell to the Xchanges studio, I'll maintain my membership with the art collective, and continue my involvement with Crossgrain Photographic Society. And if the need should arise where I require a studio space for a larger indoor shoot, I now have access to a video production studio to use on occasion for photography.
Individual and small group ‘Wet Plate Workshops’ will continue to be offered, only now they will be exclusively location-based, offering participants the flexibility to choose their classroom setting—outings to the woods or in urban areas using the mobile darkroom just the way the pioneers of the process originally worked, (minus the horses). In addition, plans are underway for a larger group workshop in spring 2024.
In summary, the year-long studio experiment will conclude on December 31st. While I've enjoyed having and working in a studio, my heart is, and always will be in doing location work.
I've produced some excellent work in the studio over the past year, including plates for Broken Rhythms Dance Group, my ‘Elemental’ project, several private commissions, and a few one-on-one wet plate workshops and demos. Though I feel a twinge of sadness leaving the studio, I eagerly anticipate working from home on new projects and opportunities without the high overhead of studio rent.
A heartfelt thank you to all who continue to support and encourage my work.