fresh no ads
Photography older than Rizal, P35k per picture! |

Arts and Culture

Photography older than Rizal, P35k per picture!

Deni Rose M. Afinidad-Bernardo -

MANILA, Philippines — Ever fancied having an antique-looking photograph that would make it seem you lived in the time of Jose Rizal and the Illustrados? 

Only until February 25, photography expert Raena Abella has a Sitting Room Studio setup at the ongoing ALT 2024 art exhibition, where one can have a live Ambrotype wetplate collodion photo session and have a picture that seems to date in the time of Rizal.

Ambrotype wetplate collodion, however, is older than Rizal, said Abella, who is arguably the only Filipina among very few Filipino practitioners of such photography.

According to her, Ambrotype wetplate collodion was the second process of photography invented right after the camera was invented by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1816.

Records show that the Ambrotype wetplate collodion was invented by Frederick Scott Archer and Ambrotypes first appeared in America in early 1850s. Rizal was born on June 19, 1861.

Ambrotypes are deliberately underexposed negatives and then optimized for viewing as positives, so such photos are special because they are both positives and negatives, explained Abella.

“It is basically making a negative on glass on the spot – shooting the image and processing it – everything in under 10 minutes,” Abella explained the process in an interview with

The photo is taken using a large-format, 8 x 10 camera. After a 10-to-15-minute shooting session, Abella takes the glass in her dark room just behind the studio, and then she processes the image, which is then already available for pickup after a week.

“Everything must be done in 10 minutes. The process is called ‘wetplate collodion,’ and the product is called an ‘Ambrotype’,” Abella explained further.

"The meticulous preparation involves coating a glass with collodion, sensitizing it in silver nitrate, and capturing an image before the plate dries. The result is a unique, one-of-a-kind photograph with a timeless aesthetic, showcasing the artistry and craftsmanship of early photography," part of Abella's studio description reads.

According to Abella, she got into the craft through her mentor, art photography expert Steve Tirona, and honed her skills in Toronto, Canada and New York. Since then, Abella has been into the craft for over 10 years.

“The process is so hard to do,” she shared. “Everything is handmade. Everything is very much into craftsmanship… The materials are so very hard to outsource. Every piece should be ordered abroad and needs special permit to bring here in the Philippines. So, just by buying the materials is hard. The process is also hard. So it’s really a labor of love from start to finish.”

Because of the craftsmanship and hardship needed to take even just one Ambrotype, every picture costs P35,000, which is even less expensive than usual, said Abella.

Despite such challenges, it is worth it to have a Ambrotype portrait even in this day and age of instant smart phone photography, assured the lady photographer.

“So with wetplate collodion, if you’re ready to embrace your natural look, because there’s no filter here, there’s no Photoshop, if you look this way, that’s it. It’s unforgiving. So it should be taken by people who are ready to really embrace the look that they have…”

When asked how long an Ambrotype lasts, she exclaimed, “It lasts for a lifetime. It would last longer than you and me!”

“Unless you break the glass,” she warned, “but the image will stay forever!”

Abella gave a tour of her studio, dark room and exhibition. When asked if the nude photos on display were hers, she quipped, “Everyone thinks it’s me, but no, it’s not me!”

ALT 2024 runs until February 25 in Hall 4 of SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

vuukle comment



Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with