Shane Balkowitsch

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Shane Balkowitsch
Shane Balkowitsch.jpg
Self Portrait, a wet plate collodion photograph of Shane Balkowitsch.
Shane Balkowitsch

(1969-01-24) January 24, 1969 (age 50)
OccupationWet plate photographer, and founder of Balkowitsch Enterprises

Shane Balkowitsch (born January 24, 1969) is an American wet plate photographer from Bismarck, North Dakota. The subject of his photos is the human condition.[1] Since 2012 he has photographed over 2,000 individuals, including various celebrities[1] and historical figures.[2] Balkowitsch is a self-taught photographer.[3][4][5]

Photographic career[edit]

In 2012 Balkowitsch began researching the process of wet plate photography after reading a manual on the subject by tintype photographer John Coffer. With little experience in photography, Balkowitsch experimented with the process and took his first successful photo the same year. Since then he has produced over 2,000 plates and his work has appeared in numerous publications. He holds demonstrations in North Dakota with the use of a portable darkroom.[6][7][8][9][10]


Balkowitsch uses an Italian made Alessandro Gibellini 8x10" folding camera in the studio. He uses Carl Zeiss Tessar 300mm and 360mm lenses.[11] In the studio, sessions require 4500 watts of continuous light. For outdoor sessions the sunlight is enhanced with the help of reflectors. This gives his images a very modern and washed out look. Far from the way original images would have appeared.


  • Wet plates by Balkowitsch have been permanently curated by the State Historical Society of North Dakota.[12]
  • Photographs have been featured in various art exhibits.[13][14][15]
  • Balkowitsch has been invited to speak on the history of wet plate photography, and provide demonstrations of the process.[16][17]
  • Balkowitsch received the 2016 Rising Star Award from Bismarck State College.[18]
  • On April 6, 2016, Balkowitsch gave a Tedx talk at the University of Mary that discussed the history of collodion photography and examined the impact of modern technology on photographs in relation to the evolution of how people create and preserve photographs.[19]
  • In 2016 The Smithsonian Institution acquired from Balkowitch his wet plate portrait photograph of boxing champion Evander Holyfield.[20][21][22] Indexing of the portrait was finalized by the Smithsonian in 2018. The portrait is now part of the National Portrait Gallery, object number NPG.2017.3[23]
  • On October 28, 2018 Balkowitsch was given the name "Maa'ishda tehxixi Agu'agshi" by Calvin Grinnell of the Hidatsa-Mandan-Arikara Nation. The English translation of the name is Shadow Catcher.[24]

Projects and exhibits[edit]

Murderer's Gulch, A non-historical Wet Plate Collaboration[edit]

Wet plate collodion photograph of Murderer's Gulch

In 2016 Balkowitsch set out to create an homage to the famous 1887 New York photo by Jacob Riis called the "Bandits Roost."[25] The objective was to get the look and feel in the present day using the historic collodion process with his models wearing very non-historical clothing.[26] The recreation project took place in East Alley near 423 E Broadway Ave in Bismarck, North Dakota on June 11. About 100 individuals volunteered to assist in the project volunteering hey, wood, props, costumes, and as actors for the image.[27] The final glass plate, titled, "Murderer's Gulch" is being curated by the Historical Society of North Dakota in their permanent archive.[3]

Dakota Access Pipeline dispute by Standing Rock Native community[edit]

Wet plate collodion photograph of Elder Addressing Crowd. Dakota Access Pipeline Protest.

On August 15, 2016, Balkowitsch travelled to Cannon Ball, ND, to capture images of the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. The pipeline is to run less than one mile from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation of North Dakota and South Dakota. One of only a few photographers allowed at the scene of the protest, Balkowitsch captured images of the protesting encampment.[28][29] The protest included many people Balkowitsch met during work on a photography project for the Historical Society of North Dakota, Northern Plains Native Americans: A Modern Wet Plate Perspective.[30][31][32][33][34] The 2017 documentary film Awake: A Dream from Standing Rock by director Josh Fox features a wet plate by Balkowitsch of Floris White Bull who also appears in the film.[35][36] The 2018 documentary film Peacekeeper also includes and credits wet plate images taken by Balkowitch during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.[37]

The Persecution of Complete Strangers[edit]

The Persecution of Complete Strangers A wet plate collodion photograph inspired by William Mortensen. Dedicated to the life of Hande Kader

A performance art event performed on August 27, 2016, The Persecution of Complete Strangers is a modern expression of a current event influenced by past images to visually express the continued xenophobia and resulting crimes against perceived enemies. The images are inspired by William Mortensen. The exhibit was created, directed, and photographed by Shane Balkowitsch and dedicated to the memory of Hande Kader, a Turkish transgender woman whose body was found raped, mutilated, and burned by the roadside in the Zekeriyaköy up-market on August 12, 2016. It is part of the global outcry and protests against the hate, mistreatment, and irrational fear of transgender people.[38][39]

The Mask Series, A Five Year Wet Plate Collodion International Collaboration[edit]

The Mask Series was started by Shane Balkowitsch in 2012 after taking a very simple collodion image of a vintage Czech M10 gas mask and a wilting flower. He called the plate 'The Last Flower'. The goal for this series is to raise awareness of the historic wet plate technique as an art form. This will allow artists that normally do not have a chance to share their work to participate in a collaborated effort with other artists from around the world. Once an artist decides to participate and take up the challenge of creating an original work, a gas mask is sent to them. The artist then produces a wet plate collodion image of any size or type that works best for them. The Series is expected to be completed in 2017.[40][41][42][43]

Northern Plains Native Americans Series, A Modern Wet Plate Perspective[edit]

Northern Plains Native Americans Series is an ongoing wet plate project inspired by the works of 19th Century wet plate photographers Mathew Brady, Edward S. Curtis, and Orlando Scott Goff. The first wet plate in the series is "Eternal Field," a 2014 wet plate photograph of Ernie Lapointe, the Great Grandson of Sitting Bull. The goal of the series is to capture one-thousand 8x10" black glass ambrotypes of Native American communities and individuals.[44][45] On November 3, 2017, the Bismarck Art Galleries Association hosted the reception of Shane Balkowitsch’s photograph series, "Northern Plains Native Americans: A Modern Wet Plate Perspective."[46][47]

Nostalgic Glass, A Natural Light Wet Plate Studio[edit]

Nostalgic Glass Wet Plate Studio Interior Panoramic with Shane Balkowitsch Seated 11-9-2018

In 2018 Balkowitch opened a new photography studio in Bismark, North Dakota. The studio took two years to plan and eight months to construct. According to Balkowitch, Nostalgic Glass is the first natural light wet plate studio built from the ground up in North America in over 100 years.[48][49]

Liberty Trudges Through Injustice, A Wet Plate Collodion Collaboration[edit]

Liberty Trudges Through Injustice a Wet Plate Collodion Collaboration

Liberty Trudges Through Injustice, is a wet plate image created by Shane Balkowitsch resulting from a collaboration event that took place in Bismarck, North Dakota on July 21, 2018. The collaboration was directed by Shane Balkowitsch and inspired by the painting Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix.[50]

Nokota Horses, The Horse in North Dakota[edit]

Works by Shane Balkowitsch were included in the "Horse in North Dakota" exhibit hosted by the North Dakota Heritage Center. The Nokota Horse Conservancy helps to preserve this breed of horse. Nokota Horse Conservancy promoters believe these horses are the descendants of those once owned by the Plains Indians. Today, there are approximately 800 worldwide.[51]

Northern Plains Native Americans: A Personal Collection[edit]

On August 25, 2018 the Rourke Art Museum hosted an exhibit called "Northern Plains Native Americans: A Personal Collection" that featured various works by Balkowitsch from his "Northern Plains Native Americans Series" collection. Balkowitsch also provided demonstrations on the art of traditional wet plate photography during the event.[52][53][54][55]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Immortalizing Evander 'The Real Deal' Holyfield with a Wet Plate Portrait". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  2. ^ White, Dustin. "Quicksilver Captured in Silver: Virgil Hill". Mandan News. Retrieved 27 February 2014.
  3. ^ a b Jamie Council. "Bronson Koenig in Standing Rock - Story | North Dakota | MyNDNow". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  4. ^ Dobbins, Bill. "The Wetplate Tradition Continues". Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  5. ^ Dobbins, Bill. "Closeup: Shane Balkowitsch Continues the Wet Plate Tradition". Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  6. ^ "Bismarck man to recreate historic Custer photograph". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  7. ^ "Recreating a little piece of history". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  8. ^ "Souls of Silver exhibit on at the Arts Center". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  10. ^ "Documenting ND pipeline protests with 'time-machine' tech". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  11. ^ "Balkowitsch's "immortal impressions" in glass and silver | High Plains Reader, Fargo ND". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  12. ^ "2014-P-025 Collections - Photographs - Archives Holdings - Archives - State Historical Society of North Dakota". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  13. ^ Neil Thrun (2015-02-01). "| The Kansas City Star". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  14. ^ Olson, Chris (2015-01-15). "Souls of Silver exhibit on at the Arts Center". Jamestown Sun. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  15. ^ "Memorial Union Gallery to feature photography exhibit - NDSU News (NDSU)". 2014-08-01. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  16. ^ "Lewis and Clark Fort Mandan Foundation: Calendar of Events". 2016-07-16. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  17. ^ United States (2014-09-10). "Wet plate collodion demonstration and closing reception". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  18. ^ "Alumni Awards | Bismarck State College". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  19. ^ "Shane Balkowitsch at TEDx April 6th, 2016 at University of Mary". YouTube. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  20. ^ Evans, Bo. "Bismarck wet plate photographer's portrait of boxing legend headed to Smithsonian". Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  21. ^ Harris, Bob. "Smithsonian to get portrait of Evander Holyfield from Bismarck Photographer". Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  22. ^ Comeau, Michael. "Meet Wet Plate Photographer Shane Balkowitsch". Retrieved 18 January 2018.
  23. ^ "Evander Holyfield, "The Real Deal"". Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  24. ^ "Shane Balkowitsch "Shadow Catcher" Native American Naming Ceremony by Calvin Grinnell". Retrieved 11 November 2018.
  25. ^ "Murderer's Gulch; a historic photo shoot". Midwestern Scout. 2016-07-19. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  26. ^ "Shane Balkowitsch, Murderer's Gulch Wet Plate Collodion Collaboration". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  27. ^ Midwest Communications Inc. (2016-06-30). "Shane Balkowitsch-Photographer of "Murderer's Gulch" | KFGO-790". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  28. ^ Pangburn, DJ. "Photographer Uses 166-Year-Old Process to Capture the Spirit of North Dakota". Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  29. ^ Keller, Jeff. "Photographer uses 'antique' photo technique to illustrate struggles of Native Americans". Retrieved 17 June 2017.
  30. ^ "WATER AND OIL DO NOT MIX". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  31. ^ "Zenfolio | Nostalgic Glass Wet Plate Studio". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  32. ^ "Can't drink oil". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  33. ^ Dau, Stephen. "Stone Ghosts". Retrieved 13 December 2016.
  34. ^ Hagen, C.S. "Death by Oil: Remembering the Dakota 38". Retrieved 25 December 2016.
  35. ^ "AWAKE - A Dream From Standing Rock [TRAILER]". Retrieved 2 April 2017.
  36. ^ Arvol Looking Horse, Chief. "Standing Rock is everywhere: one year later". Retrieved 5 March 2018.
  37. ^ "Peacekeeper". YouTube. PeacekeeperFilm. Retrieved 22 July 2018.
  38. ^ Shafak, Elif (August 23, 2016). "The shocking murder of trans activist Hande Kader says much about Turkey today". The Guardian. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  39. ^ "Giving a voice to the voiceless: The work of Shane Balkowitsch". Midwestern Scout. 2016-08-31. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  40. ^ "Wet Plate Collodion International Collaborative Collection —". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  41. ^ "Collaborative Project Using Gas Masks to Draw Attention to Wet Plate Photography". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  42. ^ "shane balkowitsch | Photography Contrastique - Alternative Photographic Processes". 2013-01-03. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  43. ^ "Wet Plate Collodion International Collaborative Collection "The Mask Series" « Photographers & People «". 2013-12-04. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  44. ^ Meadows, John. "PASSION AND COMPASSION". Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  45. ^ "Eternal Field". State Historical Society of North Dakota. Retrieved 8 March 2017.
  46. ^ Thompson, Darren. "Northern Plains Indians: A Modern Wet Plate Perspective". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  47. ^ Hoffman, Megan. "Artist uses old-fashioned photography for Native American collection". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  48. ^ Wachter, Jessica. "Shane Balkowitsch, Preserving the Process of 1800's Portraiture". Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  49. ^ Hoffman, Megan. "Only natural light wet plate studio in North Dakota completed". Retrieved 28 May 2018.
  50. ^ Hornung, Sabrina. "A TRICK OF THE LIGHT". Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  51. ^ "THE HORSE IN NORTH DAKOTA". Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  52. ^ "Reception and Demo with Shane Balkowitsch at Rourke Art Museum". Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  53. ^ "Northern Plains Native Americans : A Personal Collection". Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  54. ^ Harris, Bob. "Shane Balkowitsch "Northern Plains Native Americans" at the Rourke Saturday". / Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  55. ^ Lamb, John. "Reframing history: ND photographer's American Indian portrait series coming to Rourke". Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  56. ^ Vitanova, Dima. "Sizing Up Humanity Through Antiquated Craft". Retrieved 23 July 2017.

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