Invented in 1851 by Frederick Scott Archer, the Wet Plate Collodion photographic process followed and all but replaced the Daguerrotype. Unlike the earlier process, Wet Plate was portable, less expensive and less toxic, thus finally allowing itinerant photographers the ability to travel from town to town making portraits.
Wet Plate Collodion involves hand-coating a metal or glass plate with a viscous, salted collodion (which acts like a glue) and then submerging the plate in silver nitrate to sensitize it. While it is still wet, the sensitized plate is put in the camera and the exposure is made. Immediately following exposure, the plate is processed by hand-pouring the developer onto the plate, then washed, fixed and washed again. The resulting tintype (metal) or ambrotype (glass) is a one-of-a-kind photographic artifact; beautiful, sometimes hauntingly so, and possessing a silvery exquisiteness.
The Wet Plate Collodion process requires longer exposures than what is typical with modern photography. Hence, sitters must remain still for long periods of time, which, in part, explains the serious visage of most people photographed in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The majority of Jenny's tintypes are made in natural light and out in the field whether in the middle of nowhere, on the street or at her or someone's home. The sensitizing and developing of the plate must be done in a darkroom --standard or portable. She uses her portable darkroom, or "darkbox" to process her plates.
Jenny gravitated to wet plate because of it’s magical qualities inherent in the process, producing breathtaking plates and also because each hand-made tintype is a unique image –there is only one! Her editions works are atypical due to this uniqueness. They are "variable editions" because each individual plate is handmade, and therefore cannot possibly be exactly the same as the next.