Only natural light wet plate studio in North Dakota completed

Published: Nov. 24, 2017 at 4:34 PM CST
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The first natural light wet plate photography studio in North Dakota in more than 100 years is complete.

Shane Balkowitsch spent years designing and building the studio in the backyard of his home. Finishing touches were just put on just this week.

Two years in the making, Balkowitsch's custom built studio is finally ready.

Balkowitsch spent years using the corner of a warehouse as his studio, but not anymore. Greenhouse windows allow UV rays in and are built at an angle he learned about reading a book from the early 1900s. A darkroom with a door that spins, so natural light is never let in.

“I knew what I didn't have in my old studio and I knew what I could do. So, everything in this studio is exactly how I want it, from the colors of the carpet to the walls to everything,” said Balkowitsch.

Balkowitsch invites college students out to learn about wet plate photography, a technique of preserving an image on a sheet of glass and made of pure silver. The method of capturing pictures dates back to the 1800's but is rare today.

“We're just constantly taking photographs, constantly taking photographs. We have to ask ourselves, 'are they meaningful photographs? What's the intent? Do we want to share them with our children?' We don't because we're not printing them, we don't have shoeboxes full of photographs, so we're losing a lot of our heritage and who we are because we're relying on this very instant kind of photography that has no real place in the world,” said Balkowitsch.

With 2500 plates under his belt so far, Balkowitsch is looking forward to spending long days in the light of the windows honing his craft. “I've been at this for five years,” he said. “I always joke I think I’ll have it mastered in about 30.”

Balkowitsch broke ground on the building back in May.

He plans to allow other artists to use the studio when he's not in there.