Austrian wet plate artist Markus Hofstaetter is one of those creative minds who I can trust to come up with something crazy or unexpected, then outdo themselves each time.

Last time I talked about his work, it was about how he used the infrared and UV light spectrums to achieve a visual representation of division. This time, he used wet plate photography for a project that represents one of the most important things to all of us amidst the COVID-19 pandemic: The bonds of friendship.

For the aptly called “Connected” project, Hofstaetter wasn’t going for the technically perfect wet plate. “This is about building connections from thousands of miles away. Overcoming obstacles and being there for each other,” he noted on his blog post about the shoot.

Long exposure to cover the long distance

“We couldn’t do a lot of things because of the pandemic, but I won’t let this get me down. I also didn’t want to wait for some things I wanted to do. That’s when I came up with the idea to do things differently,” Hofstaetter said of the inspiration behind the project.

Despite being 7,000 kilometers apart from friend and fellow wet plate photographer Shane Balkowitsch, Hofstaetter had the interesting idea to shoot a wet plate portrait of them together — in the most creative and most likely unexpected way.

For this to happen, he needed to do two things: Project an image of Balkowitsch (who is based in Bismarck, ND) on his wall, and shoot a 5-minute exposure for their portrait together. Getting the right lighting equipment and gobo setup was particularly crucial so he’s also properly exposed without washing out Balkowitsch’s projected image.

In the video above, the two photographers discussed their thoughts on the unique experience, and Hofstaetter shared more interesting information about the technical details.

A unique symbol of friendship

With the pandemic significantly limiting meet ups and the projects that photographers can do, I find the sentiment behind this shoot especially inspiring. It’s also impressive how Hofstaetter was able to work around the distance and the technical challenges, driven by the idea of celebrating the connections we have with our friends and family despite the separation.

“With that I finally could meet Shane in a more direct way and we also were able to shoot a wet plate together. For me it was important to show, that there are always ways to do something. The only limits we have are in our head.”

I’ve seen some so-called Zoom or webcam photoshoots, but this project takes that concept to a whole new level! I don’t know about you, but Hofstaetter definitely inspired me to think out of the box for shooting portraits!

Don’t forget to visit Markus Hofstaetter’s website and blog to see more of his awesome wet plate projects.

All photos by Markus Hofstaetter. Used with permission.