Very recently, we gave you a brief overview of Eric Omori's fascinating photography project and a peek at some of his out-of-the-ordinary analogue masterpieces. In this article, you'll learn more about the California-based photographer's inspirations, creative processes, and more, so go ahead and read on!
Last week, we showed you some of the fascinating photographs of Eric Omori, who worked with an early photographic process called wet collodion method to give paintball battlegrounds a convincing Civil War feel. We wanted to know more about the California-based photographer and his interesting project called Weekend Warriors, so we got in touch with him and asked him to tell us more about himself and his work.
1. Can you tell us about yourself?
I am currently finishing up my last semester at California State University, Long Beach where I am obtaining my B.F.A Photography degree. I work on campus as a photo lab tech. In my free time I enjoy organizing events and gallery shows for the CSULB Photography Club.
2. Where do you find inspiration as a photographer? Do you find them in the details or the full picture?
I think going back and looking at history is a great form of inspiration. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with the digital aspect of photography it’s nice to look through art history books every once in awhile and take note to the details photographers had to overcome in the 19th century. In my opinion, limitations almost become a benefit when creating a photograph.
3. One of your projects, Weekend Warriors, makes clever use of Civil War Era equipment and photographic processes to create modern-day battlefield scenarios reminiscent of wartime from a couple of centuries ago. Can you tell us how the idea came about?
One of my professors, Mark Ruwedel, was showing our advanced black and white class a small part of his collection of photographs. When I expressed interest in the tintypes he kind of said, “Yeah those are really neat..too bad no one here would even attempt the process.” When he said that I took it as a challenge, so I went home and researched it and eventually taught myself the process. I knew I wanted to photograph the world of paintball because it’s a simulated war game. I thought it would be interesting to see that rather then actual civil war reenactments. When I gained confidence to shoot on location I just contacted some old teammates and asked if they were interested in helping me with the project.
4. I know you’ve mentioned some in your website, but can you tell us about the artists, photographers, or creative personalities that you hold in high regard, especially those who are also using wet collodion photography at this day and age?
Mark Ruwedel, Mathew Brady, Alexander Gardner, Timothy O’ Sullivan, Sally Mann, Chuck Close, Julia Margaret Cameron, Nadar, Catherine Opie, and Charlie White. Though Sally Mann is the only photographer in this day and age who also deals with wet plate collodion.
5. You also mentioned on your website that you’ve built a darkroom in your car. Can you tell us what made you decide to set it up, and how it has become a crucial part of your project?
If I wanted to work with wet plate collodion on location I needed to have a darkroom with me since whole process has to be done on site. Having a darkroom in the back of my car is the only way I am able to produce work outside of a studio. While it’s nice to be away from the studio space it can be limiting because the parking lot isn’t always close to where I am making a photograph. So I am often jogging to and from my car so my plates don’t dry up before I come back to develop.
6. What is the most challenging aspect of this project? What about the most rewarding aspect of it?
The most difficult aspect of this project is how slow the medium is. The exposures are anywhere from 10 sec to 2 minutes. It’s very difficult to try and get someone to stay with me that long for a photograph when the refs are calling next game. The rewarding aspect is when I’m finished and I have the glass plates in my hand. The photographs become more like objects. To be able to see the plates in person is a very different experience then viewing them on the web.
7. While antiquated, wet collodion remains to be a highly specialized process known to a handful of photographers. What advice can you give to those who want to give it a try?
Be very careful with the chemicals! Wear gloves and eye protection at all times. I would personally avoid using ether and cadmium in your collodion and switch with denatured alcohol and potassium salts. When I started the process I had a faulty bottle leaking fumes in my car and ended up having to take a break from the process for awhile because I felt very sick. I went to the ER but they said it wasn’t too serious…even though I lost 10 lbs in a week from throwing up. So in the words of Walter White, “Respect the chemistry!” The silver nitrate can stain anything (even cause you to go blind if you get any in your eyes). Even more dangerous is potassium cyanide…if any developer accidentally mixes in it could make a poisonous gas.
8. Lastly, do you have any future plans in the works for Weekend Warrriors?
Yes! I am hoping to continue this project over the summer. I’ll be focusing on the fields and (hopefully) team captains. I’m most interested in the woodsball fields because they sometimes simulate parts of the world like, for example, Iraq at SC Village in Corona, Ca.
Thank you so much, Eric, for taking the time to tell us more about your work! We’re very much looking forward to see more of your photos for Weekend Warriors and learn about the stories behind them soon!