Ted Preuss is a self-taught photographer from Chicago. For as long as he can remember, he has been taking photographs. He picked up his first camera at the age of seven and instantly became obsessed with the nature of the medium. During the last decade Preuss has focused his work towards fine art. Preuss works solely in black and white using traditional techniques, including vintage view cameras with century old lenses. His work been featured in Zoom Magazine, Focus Magazine, Large Format Magazine and is widely collected around the world.
How and when did you become interested in photography?
I picked up my first camera at the age of seven and fell in love with photography. After spending many years photographing family vacations my passion for photography led me to a career as a freelance architectural photographer for a decade in Boston and San Francisco. After moving to Chicago and having a personal tour through the vaults at the Art Institute of Chicago, I discovered photography as an art form. Everything I learned about lines, shapes, and shadows became an integral part of my photography today.
Is there any artist/photographer who inspired your art?
There are countless artists that have inspired me over the years. Many have been painters like Frederic Leighton and John William Waterhouse for their composition and dedication to details. It wasn’t until later in life I discovered Ruth Bernhard, Imogen Cunningham, and Manuel Alvarez Bravo. Of course my greatest inspiration always comes from my subjects.
Why do you work in black and white rather than color?
To me, color can be distracting. I feel black and white images have a timeless character to them with greater depth. Black and white process offers me more control over the results I’m looking for. To me shooting is just half the job of creating my art. It’s always a great thrill to see a print appear in the developer tray for the first time.
How much preparation do you put into taking a photograph/series of photographs?
It really depends on the series. Since I photograph with a large format camera I spend time cleaning my film holders before loading film then I spend a little time setting up studio. Many of my images from my Simple Beauty series were spontaneous with my subject. Sometimes I come across a prop that inspires me for days before a shoot. But there is a lot of preparation time spent when shooting wet-plate collodion process since you have to prep your plate and process it on site.
Could you please tell us something about your technique and creating process?
Platinum palladium prints are distinguished by their nuance, subtlety and wide tonal range. They are among the most permanent graphic images in any photographic medium. Unlike the silver print process, platinum lies on and within the paper, while silver lies in a gelatin emulsion on the surface of the paper.
This process involves mixing small amounts of platinum and palladium with a light sensitive solution containing ferric oxalate. This mixture can then be spread onto the paper surface with a brush and left to dry. After the emulsion is completely dried, the paper is placed in contact with a negative and then exposed to sunlight or a ultra-violet for 3-5 minutes. Finally, the exposed print is processed, and then cleared by washing out the ferric oxalate with several successive baths of hydrochloric acid, then finished by washing in water and dried. Did I mention the process can be done in the light, with no need for a darkroom?
Where is your photography going? What projects would you like to accomplish?
I have a several upcoming projects using wet-plate collodion process. These will be unlike my others, but the philosophy will remain the same. My idea is to keep it simplistic, and to capture the natural beauty of my subject with the sense of timelessness.
I am planning in the future to setup a scholarship program for photography students that want to continue the legacy of traditional photography and alternative processes. I feel photography has given me so much gratification in my life that I should pass it on.