Last week UCLA’s brand new Luskin Conference Center had a soft opening and a reception to thank all of the people who helped bring this new centerpiece of the campus into being. Luther’s image seen above has the enviable position of being the centerpiece of the centerpiece: it occupies quite a bit of wall space above the reception desk in the beautiful main lobby.

It was a fun event: Luther got to see the finished piece for the first time, show off his camera to new friends, the food was delicious, and, my favorite part, we got to get dressed up! The smooth, polished look of the finished piece and the opening reception stand in stark contrast to the process of the making of the image itself. He had a mystery light leak in his darkroom bus during shooting. Let’s just say it took a few tries to get the image you see hanging.

And there was a lot more to it than the usual wet plate collodion process. Obviously, the image is far too large to have been produced in-camera. Back in 2015, Luther shot a 9x27” ambrotype on stained glass of Royce Hall, one of UCLA’s original and most emblematic buildings. This positive was then digitalized in 3 sections in very high resolution by Digital Fusion, a state-of-the-art digital photographic services company. That render was then printed on 3/4” acrylic and backed with pearlescent paint to increase its reflective quality and make it glow like the pure silver of an ambrotype.

So that’s the story of how this 27 foot image was created by a 22x30” camera made by Luther and his friend Patrick Alt in 2008. They nicknamed it “The Behemoth Plate Camera.” I’d say it’s lived up to its name with this image.

All photos courtesy Digital Fusion. Visit their website here - they do some incredible work.

By Sophie Philbrick

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