Photographer: Karen Grainger
"You know when people say to you, "where do you come from?", I don't feel like I come from anywhere in Britain, but I don't really feel I come from Madagascar, because I'm not Malagasy."
Listen to an excerpt from an interview with the sitter here
This portrait was made using the Wet Plate Collodion process, a process once dominant between 1860-1880. It uses a hand mixed liquid Collodion formula poured onto a glass plate, exposed in a 10 x 8” Victorian portrait studio camera, followed by developing, fixing and washing in a darkroom. All steps need to be done fairly quickly to keep the plate from drying or the image will not form.
The shoot was undertaken at Julia Margaret Cameron’s former home and workplace on the Isle of Wight, where I had recently revived the use of the process there during a residency. Over two days, we set up and made plates using the natural daylight through the first floor bay window, in the main (very busy) gallery. Whilst Alison sat reading between plates, I paced up and down stairs between darkroom and camera. One plate would typically take approximately 35 minutes from start to finish.
The traditional silk Lamba worn by women in Madagascar worked really well with the process, faintly echoing Julia Margaret Cameron’s studies of women posed as classically draped Madonnas or Ophelias, whilst still emphasising the exotic yet earthy texture of that ‘far off land’.
Karen Grainger, photographer - www.karengrainger.co.uk