Cutting sheds, Kirkstone Quarry

Tim Soar’s study of photographic processes from the 1800s is the ideal medium for disused Cumbrian cutting sheds

Collodion Wet Plate Process was invented by Frederic Scott Archer in the 1850s. It was, briefly, the prevalent photographic process before being replaced in the 1880s by dry gelatine emulsions. Wet Plate is an extremely ­demanding discipline. The plate must be coated, sensitised, exposed and developed while wet, in practice a span of 10 to 15 minutes. To work on location – as we did at the request of quarry owner Nick Fecit – a portable dark room is required, together with a chemist’s flair for perfect and uncorrupted solutions. This makes the process incredibly difficult on location, and an insane task at 1,200ft on the Kirkstone Pass in the Lake District. 

The process is predominantly sensitive to blue light: the cool colour spectrum is rendered light, the warmer tones as dark. This gives a unique and compelling result. Clouds disappear, yellows  and reds become black, an ­entirely new and unexpected world is revealed. 
The quarry closed in 2012, faced by overwhelming competition from Chinese and Turkish products. The works are abandoned, and the highly-skilled teams of rockhands, sawyers, polishers and masons lost their jobs. However, Burlington Stone now owns the rights to quarry so the exceptional indigenous stone is still available.

This image was made with photographic processes expert and regular project collaborator Carl Radford.