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Originally published January 11, 2011 at 7:57 PM | Page modified January 12, 2011 at 2:54 AM

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Photographer's antique camera turns Seattle upside down

Northwest Wanderings: Photographer Daniel Carrillo uses an antique Deardorff camera to take pictures around Seattle.

Seattle Times staff photographer

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Daniel Carrillo's view of the world would bring vertigo to most — he likes seeing it upside down. It "makes you slow down, and it helps organize, helps compose."

Using thoroughly modern eBay, he bought an antique camera, an 8-by-10 Deardorff built beautifully of mahogany and brass.

It's cumbersome, used only on a tripod, and was first introduced almost 90 years ago. He attaches a century-old lens in front.

The optics of this camera invert everything.

Taking steps further back in time, Carillo uses wet-plate collodion technology, a process developed in 1851.

That means making a piece of glass light-sensitive with the viscous liquid collodion and toxic chemicals, exposing it and immediately developing it. It's what William Henry Jackson used when he brought back the first photographs of what became Yellowstone National Park.

Carrillo forgoes the ox-drawn wagon or camera-carrying mules that Jackson used.

He seeks out downtown construction sites, city scenes and especially portraits, "trudging along looking for the next photograph."

He makes one-second exposures in full sunlight, 10 times slower than a digital point-and-shoot.

They're rough around the edges, with a very shallow focus of an inch or less.

"The process itself lends itself to a lot of flaws."

Yet, Carrillo's plates are "one of a kind" positives.

"They're a tightrope walk between image and artifact with plenty of imperfections. They're never perfect, and it's kind of liberating."

Alan Berner: aberner@seattletimes.com or 206-464-8133

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