Foursquare’s Wet Plate Project: A 19th century approach to snowboard photography by Ian Ruhter

When we hear of a project that defines all odds or that skeptics say can't happen, we find ourselves intrigued. Foursquare's "Wet Plate Project" is one of those projects.

Wet plate photography is a 19th century technique of developing a photo using dangerous, harmful chemicals and a developing process that creates a unique, gritty metallic image on glass. Yup, you heard us, on glass… Not only is this technique extremely hard to do, but to capture action or moving subjects is near impossible. But photographer Ian Ruhter was determined to defy all odds from his peers and photo buffs alike.

Check out the gallery from behind the scenes and the finished works of art that Foursquare used in their latest advertising campaigns. Much respect to Ian for not only figuring out what only one person in history has done before but for applying that technique to our beloved sport. The images look amazing. Nice work Ian!

You can check out this entire gallery in person as Foursquare tours North America. With stops in Cleveland, OH, Denver, CO, Seattle, WA, Whistler, BC, Montreal, QC and Burlington, VT you'll have plenty of chances to see these amazing works of art in person. This is a gallery not to miss.

Wet Plate Project: Pat Moore
Wet Plate Project: Alek Oestreng
Wet Plate Project: Andreas Wiig

Foursquare Outerwear:

THE WET PLATE PROJECT” is a first ever, unique approach to snowboard and action photography shot by experimental lifestyle and accomplished snowboard photographer Ian Ruhter. The Foursquare Team along with Ian set out to shoot snowboarding in an entirely new way, through one of the oldest photo processes ever developed, Wet Plate Photography.

This process – also called collodion – combines dangerous chemicals and developing systems (using an 8 x by 10 Deardorff camera) to create gritty, detailed metallic images on glass, an experimental and difficult departure from modern photography. Using this process, glass plates are coated with collodion liquid, allowed to set, then sensitized in a bath of silver nitrate, and finally exposed for a few seconds, or up to several minutes, before being immersed in a bath of potassium cyanide to develop. The challenge: Ruhter needed to shorten the exposure time significantly to capture fast motion under intensely bright lights. (Note: The only other person who successfully did this was Edward Muybridge, who photographed a man riding a galloping horse in 1878).

Working with the Foursquare Team, Ian took this process a step further by becoming the first in history to use modern lighting tricks, including using enough Profoto Lighting kits to overpower the sun by more than 20 times, to capture the fast motion of a snowboarder through wet plate photography.

“I never thought I would do something that has never been done before but this was in the back of my mind. Photography has been around for over 100 years and it still seemed to be an almost impossible feat. I asked around and I could not find a single person that had ever attempted this since then. I was determined to set out to do what was deemed the impossible by my colleagues.”

The concept for the ad shoot not only challenged the conventions of a vintage photography process generally reserved for long-exposure shots with little movement but successfully allowed us to create unique one of a kind imagery of our Team. Ian, who was there when snowboarding began, framed it perfectly when he identified that wet plate is the perfect platform to “defy all the rules, the same way that snowboarding started.”

“Digital is a sign of our times: we want things now. But with that mindset, we sacrifice so much. I prefer to see the imperfections—that is what makes us individual, unique. The same principles should be applied to a photo and it’s process.”

For more on Ian Ruhter, one of the most recognized names in action sports photography and respected snowboard photographers check out his website here:


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