Shane Balkowitsch



My name is Shane Balkowitsch and I was born and raised in Bismarck, North Dakota.  I have never formally studied photography or been formally trained.  In fact, the first personal camera I have ever owned was my 5x7” wet plate camera. 

In August, 2012,   I saw an image online that I found very intriguing.  I did some research and realized the image was a wet plate photograph.  I decided to try and make an image in this very archaic and difficult process.  Individuals that attempt this very early photographic process are usually professional photographers who are at the height of their careers, and interested in challenging themselves.  I studied and researched many books before I assembled my makeshift studio including my chemical supplies and wood box camera. 

I made my first wet plate on October 4, 2012.  Chad, my brother, was my first subject.  I have shot 580 portrait plates of family, friends and complete strangers to date.   My goal is to document and photograph as many different people as I possibly can in silver on glass.  I am the only wet plate photographer in North Dakota at this time.  I am very proud to continue to represent this historic process in my home state

Artist Statement

Each and every day the world is filled with millions and millions of digital photographs that have no value, character, significance or physical form.  That is not the case with a wet plate.  The wet plate process is magical and the end result is tangible and precious.   

Digital photography of today relies on technology.  Wet plate photography relies on 160 year old chemistry, a bit of magic, and some luck.  I think it is very important that as technology moves forward, we embrace and continue to celebrate and not forget important processes from the past.  Wet plate photography is one of those processes. I am very proud to be the only person pouring wet plates in the state of North Dakota at this time.  Every time I show someone the wet plate process, they are absolutely amazed regarding the ability to get a photograph using some chemicals and pieces of glass that I cut by hand. 

It is my goal to capture as many people as I can in this process.  Friends, family, loved ones or complete strangers, it does not matter.  I want to share with as many people as possible this beloved process that dates back to the 1848.  Wet plate photography was such an important medium for expression in the past and I want it to continue to be today.  It has been said that “you do not take a wet plate photograph, it is given to you” and this is so very true.