Photographer Sean Hawkey uses 19th-century techniques to capture images of miners in Peru

Hawkey used the so-called "wet-plate" process to photograph miners as part of a Fairtrade Foundation campaign called I Do, which encourages couples to buy Fairtrade silver and gold wedding rings

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

When photographer Sean Hawkey travelled to Peru to photograph its miners as part of a Fairtrade Foundation campaign called I Do, which encourages couples to buy Fairtrade silver and gold wedding rings, he had a thought.

Mining is one of the world's most dangerous industries, and its workers can earn as little as one dollar a day. At the Sotrami mine located in the Andes, however, the miners are treated well. But rather than capturing images of the men using contemporary photography methods, the 49-year-old Brighton-based photographer decided to use the so-called "wet-plate" process which dates back to 1851, incorporating silver nitrate from the Sotrami's own laboratory.

"It's a very slow process," says Hawkey, who had to lug around a mobile darkroom and laboratory, heavy antique equipment and lights, plus 20kg of metal plates for the camera. "The exposure for each photo takes about 15 seconds so people can't really smile as they can't maintain it for that long. It's why people looked so dour in old pictures. I think it's a really interesting way of photographing someone."

 

Aside from the cumbersome equipment Hawkey had to handle and transport, there were other challenges with the project. Peruvian customs seized many of the chemicals required in the process, and the wet plates dried much faster than Hawkey had anticipated. But it was all worth it for the startling images.

"This type of photography draws out the haggard, deeper lines in people's faces. And these men have had tough lives so they have these brilliant, expressive faces. It really suits them; I think they look terrific."

For more: hawkey.co.uk

Comments