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Portrait on glass: the art of Ding Gerrous

Portrait on glass: the art of Ding Gerrous

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Art/n23, a multi-city agency for Philippine contemporary artists, will be presenting the work of Paris-based Filipino photographer Ding Gerrous during Art Fair Philippines 2021.

Ding Gerrous (born Panganiban, 1963) is a Filipino photographer based in France. He is specialized in an artisanal photographic process called wet plate collodion. Succeeding the very toxic daguerrotype, the process gained popularity in the Victorian era (1850-1880). The images produced go direct through the camera on glass or metal plates coated with salt nitrocellulose called collodion. It is then rendered sensitive to light in a bath of silver nitrate solution. In a sense, it is the ancestor of film as we know it.

Interestingly, Ding uses recuperated window glass panes from old buildings in Paris. All of his works are unique pieces, working on both portrait and conceptual photography. 

Sandra Palomar, art/n23 co-founder, summarizes, “the wet plate process requires the artist to be immediate and exact within a very limited time frame and setting. In the midst of crisis and uncertainty, collodion gives the artist room to manoeuvre and perpetuate an image in serendipitous ways.

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Ding Gerrous lives in Paris since 2005.

We spoke further with Ding about the process:

Can you explain the recent resurgence and interest for collodion photography?

Ding Gerrous: “Sally Mann, the American photographer re-popularised collodion. Today people are attracted by imperfections like those on the glass borders of the ambrotype (unlike) in the old times, it was perfection, clean pictures, nice light, nice balance… It’s the idea, the philosophy, that we are not perfect that shows in the picture”.

What fascinates you to work with ambrotype and glass as a medium?

“Glass is fragile but hard and brittle at the same time. There’s something about life that you can connect it to. If you make a portrait in glass, for me it shows that fragility and at the same time the durability because it’s inert. Glass stays as long as you don’t break it. In immortalizing an image, glass is the perfect support for me. It’s about the fragility of the human spirit, the body, the mind—us as humans.”

What is so unique about ambrotype?

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Photo Aliis Sinisalu via Unsplash

It’s not a print. It’s the very same material, the very same glass that I put behind the camera, and comes out as the only copy that you can have.”

As an innovation during the lockdown, art/n23 has partnered with Gerrous to produce virtual Zoom portrait sittings. Sitters will need a decent Internet connection, natural or spot light, and a phone or computer camera. Portraits may be done with props, favourite art works, or friends and family members. The sittings take 15 to 45 minutes after which sitters will receive digital proofs and be shipped their glass portraits of 5×7 inches.

Book your sittings through Art/n23, or email

The name art/n23 draws from the Tropic of Cancer, the 23rd parallel North of the equatorial latitude situating the location of the Philippines islands. This designates the upper limits of the tropical zone on the globe, the problematics and beauty of which are exposed by artists in these geographical areas.

Art/n23, is an agency for Philippine artists and designers. It is a partnership that bloomed from a meeting of minds in Paris. ​ Co-founders Sandra Palomar and Cristina Herfort both took undergraduate studies from the University of the Philippines, Diliman and continued higher education in France – Palomar at the École des Beaux-Arts Paris and Herfort at Sciences-Po Paris. Palomar was formerly Director of the Metropolitan Museum Manila and currently teaches arts management at the De La Salle College of Saint Benilde, Manila and fine arts at Foundation University, Dumaguete. Herfort now lives in Brussels and collects contemporary as well as Philippine tribal art. Art Fair Philippines is to be held online on May 5 to 16, 2021.

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