What is wet plate collodion photography?

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  • Collodion is a syrupy solution of pyroxylin in ether or alcohol and was first used to keep surgical dressings in place.
  • In 1851, Frederick Scott Archer and Gustave Le Gray simultaneously discovered collodion could be used for photography.
  • When used for photography, the collodion is spread on glass or tin plates, dipped in silver nitrate and exposed to ultraviolet light to develop an image.
  • When used on clear glass it produces a negative image, known as ambrotype, and that negative can be used to make multiple prints.
  • When a black backing is added it makes a positive, one-off image that cannot be replicated.
  • Collodion on tin is often called tintype or ferrotype.