FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Charles Mason’s home, tucked away into the hills overlooking the Tanana Valley, is a monument to the secret, alchemical processes of photography.
Charles Mason spent July of 2018 making photographs at Denali National Park as an Artist in Residence. (Lisa Pullen)
Setting up for our interview, I ask him how many cameras he has in his home.
He shrugs and says, “The real question is how many lenses do I have?”
Mason, who was the recipient of a 2018 Artist in Residence at Denali National Park is getting ready for an exhibition at the Anchorage Museum this summer.
The pieces he is preparing were made at the park during his residency there.
"I shot, oh, over 100 glass plates in what's called collodion photography, wet plate photography,” says Mason. “It's a 19th century process for shooting an image with a large format camera in the field and having a darkroom with you so you can process it immediately before it dries.”
The collodion process, used in the Civil War era to make photographs using large-format cameras, uses a variety of caustic chemicals painted onto a piece of glass and inserted into the camera.
Mason, who took his first photo as a child in 1971, has experienced firsthand the transition from film to digital. So why utilize a historic process?
"Well, learning collodion, and then having this project to really sink my teeth in it and come out with images that I think are unique has reinvigorated my entire zeal for photography,” Mason responds. “Which has always been pretty good, but I'm 61, at age 61 I wish I had 30 more years now to do collodion, and I don't know that I do or don't..."
The Anchorage Museum's Aperture 2020 exhibition, which includes Mason’s Denali work as well as work by other Alaskan photographers, opens May 1st, 2020.
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