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Category: Things We Love

A love for photography marries a love for the past – Luther Gerlach

Posted in Things We Love

Top Hat

“Quite often I feel as if my soul is in the past and my mind is in the future”.

To say that Luther Gerlach is in love with the past would be too reductive. It might be more accurate to say that Luther Gerlach is in love with the photographing technique and equipment of the past that allow him to take photographs of modern subjects as if it were still 1850.

Luther Gerlach
Luther Gerlach

In his words: “By reducing subjects to their essence, and using the journey of process required to produce them, I create photographs that reflect an emotional state. This journey of process involves the use of large-format cameras and lenses dating from 1850 to 1920, which I have been collecting and restoring for many years.”

In our digital world, devoid of worries for wasting film or wasting time, with airbrushing and apps, and everything in between, that can elevate mediocre photographers to passable ones, dedicating one’s life to taking photographs that require  mind-boggling detailed work, could seem a bit anachronistic. But, looking more closely, it’s a search for integrity.

Luther Gerlach fell in love with the art of photography early in life.

“My passion for photography began at the age of ten. My father’s anthropology studies led our family throughout the world, providing the inspirational canvas for what was to become my lifelong devotion to the art of photography.”

Through the years and “the growing standardization of photography”, Luther found trying to understand “the meaning of line and light”, using them to create poetry on a canvas, more interesting than just pushing buttons.

For over 20 years, Luther has been taking photographs using original cameras from the late 19th/early 20th century and developing the images using the wet-plate collodion process, a painstaking, multi-step technique that uses a chemical solution on glass plates to capture images with remarkable depth of detail. A good day will yield half a dozen photographs as subject, light and composition must be studied at length and perfectly aligned before the shutter opens.

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The results, be they portraits, nudes or landscapes, possess the warmth of the sepia tones, the dreamy notes of times gone by but seen through the eyes of a 21st century artist: they can be magical and unsettling at the same time.


“[The cameras] have a magical quality which helps me to bring forth an undefinable depth of feeling and poetic structure in my photographs. My primary concern is that this art communicates not only on a factual level, but on a level of beauty and emotion.

Many thanks to Marie S. for introducing me to the artist.

All photographs copyright of Luther Gerlach – For more information on the artist:

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