Detritus Redefined

Of late, I’ve not only finished major projects, but have also started off in a new direction. I’m creating assemblages using a mix of alternative photographic pieces and objects found on the beach and in local waterways. The found objects? Junk, really. “Detritus” … which sounds more refined.

My three latest pieces combine wetplate collodion photographs with bones and broken china.

The assemblage above began with a Galapagos Sea lion skull a neighbor found on the beach. I borrowed it and photographed it in the studio using an 8×10 large format camera and the wetplate collodion process.  Collodion solution with sensitized silver is flowed onto a heated metal plate. (I used black aluminum.) It is then exposed and processed in the darkroom while wet. It’s like a tintype, only on aluminum. Once dry, I flowed warm Sandarac varnish onto the plate to seal it. I then used an engraving pen to give the background a silver corona (I probably shouldn’t use that word right now). The exquisite vertebra was found on our beach. I drilled holes and attached china pieces picked from the river mud. The china had been tumbled in sand for 3 days, to remove rough edges. Everything came together and is nicely balanced.

Detail of assemblage.

Above is a photo on metal of a dolphin skull. This piece also began with an 8×10 camera and the wetplate collodion process as described above. I used a different type of varnish to give it more of a mat finish. A lovely vertebra, tumbled china and a bead from the river adorn the top.

A detail of the assemblage.

The third piece in this series is another dolphin skull photographed in the studio with a crazy Kathy Ross wearable art piece as a background. Another wetplate collodion work, this was photographed with an 8×10 camera. The patina on the metal attached to the top is fabulous! Straight from the river with only a bit of preservative added by me. I drilled holes and sewed bird skulls onto the metal. The dolphin skull is so bird-like, it deserved an avian corona (there’s that word again).

Detail of assemblage.


This was my first assemblage. Here’s how this piece came about: I first made a pinhole camera from a large Altoids container. The [limited edition] giant sized tin. It accepts 4×5 film or light sensitive paper. I used 4×5, black and white film. I exposed the image then printed it on canvas. I’ve been thinking about how to use all of the things I find on the beach and in the rivers. I found this cigar box (and a few others) at Washaway beach a while back. I also found the bird skull near here. I embellished the edges with glass beads, and the skull with a tiny rhinestone. A piece of glass slides into the slot where the cigar box lid used to be, making this more or less a shadow box. 

Detail of assemblage.
Once the glass was in place, the piece needed some visual balance. I found this perfect little metal detail in the mud and attached it to the front.

It’s all about textures and patina. This is only the second assemblage I’d made. Here’s how it came about: I found an old silver-plated teapot in Montana a while back. The silver is mostly rubbed off and I love the look of it! I photographed it with a 4×5 camera using the wet plate collodion process. I drilled holes into the corners and sewed a thread that looks like tarnished silver.
I found the metal base piece in a local river. I cleaned the mud off and sprayed it with an anti-flaking spray that made the colors deep yet kept it from getting a shiny finish.
I bolted the wetplate photograph to the metal, leaving some space so it appears to float. I added touches of treasures found in the river. Like, the metal crown-looking piece.

Assemblage #3: Here’s how it came about: I found the delicate vertebra and snail shell washed up on the beach at North Cove. I photographed them with a 4×5 camera using the wet plate collodion process. The broken china was picked from our local tidal rivers. I tumbled the pieces for 3 days in beach sand to clean them and smooth the rough spots. I then drilled holes in strategic spots on both the china pieces and the wetplate collodion plate. I balanced everything and attached it together with twisted wire. The buckle and rusty metal (sealed with anti-flake sealer) that it hangs from were also found in the river. It is approximately 8″ wide by 8 1/2″ tall. I learned a lot during the assembly of this piece!

Assemblage detail.


Me and the 8×10 camera I used to photograph the larger collodion pieces.

Update 12-20: Here’s a couple more pieces I made.

Update 12-22:

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