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art & design

Photo Gallery

Ken Merfeld

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Ken Merfeld

  • Roots: Born and raised in Southern California, USA
  • Place of residence/work: Culver City, California
  • Education: Art Center, College of Design and San Diego State University
  • I started to photograph: in 1973
  • Camera(s) I use: Anthony Tailboard glass plate camera, Hasselblad, Canon, Contax, and Lomo
  • I would like to meet: Irving Penn
  • I take photos, because: I have to constantly be involved in an artistic and/or creative expression
  • Favorite aperture and shutter speed: f 2.8, 6-20 seconds!
  • Pictures hanging in your apartment: Witkin, K. Carter, Louis Gonzales Palma
  • Your source of photo materials/chemicals: Various
  • Favorite photographer: Arbus, Penn, Disfarmer, A. Sander, Meatyard, Julia Margaret Cameron
  • Music, you are "killing" right now: "Cottonbelly", the New York collections; UB-40 "Cover-Up", "Guns in the Ghetto"
  • Last seen movie: "House of Flying Daggers"
  • Book you last read/reading now: "Art and Fear", Bayles/Orland



Ken Merfeld owns a 4,000 square foot studio in Culver City, California where he photographs fashion, advertising, portrait, and celebrity assignments. His work has appeared in Vogue, Harper's Bazaar, Mademoiselle, Angeleno, Zoom, Black and White, and Los Angeles Magazine.

His commercial accounts include American Express, Nike, Kodak, Apple Computers, Sony, Pacific Bell, Disney, Mattel, McDonald's and Panavision.

Ken teaches photography part time at The Art Center College of Design, in Pasadena, California where he graduated with honors. He also has degrees in Psychology and Marketing Management from San Diego State University in San Diego, California.

Prior to his work in the world of Wet-Plate Collodion, Ken has worked on a personal portrait project [traditional silver prints] for 18 years which includes: dancers, bikers, autistic children, midgets, people with their pets, transvestites, identical twins, women wearing masks, etc. This personal work has been likened to that of Irving Penn, Diane Arbus, August Sanders, and E.J. Bellocq with his own sensitivity, depth, and meticulous printing techniques.

In response to the rapidly moving electronic image world, Ken has chosen to embrace the ultimate, historical, hands-on technique of Wet-Plate Collodion [originally known as the "Black Art"] from the 1860's. Influenced by the 19th Century portraits of Julia Margaret Cameron, whereby a single defining exposure is made on a piece of glass and processed immediately, Ken has re-defined his world of emotional portraiture.

A recent commercial application of Merfeld's Wet-Plate Collodion work was seen as a 14 page Spring Fashion layout in the April 2005 issue of Angeleno magazine. His current body of Collodion work has been exhibited in Los Angeles, Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Mexico City.

Award winning documentary projects: Autistic retarded children, Vietnam Refugees [Camp Pendleton], Identical twins.



Artistic Statement

I believe that interesting people make interesting portraits and I enjoy the dichotomy of man as it is revealed in a collaborative venue of trust.

Every person embodies a range from strength to weakness in their persona.

To tap into this inner truth rather than a fašade, to embrace honest emotion over a flight of fantasy, and to construct this provocative truth on a simple piece of glass is part of what the Wet-Plate Collodion process is about.

The world we live in is not perfect, nor are the people who inhabit it, and neither is this chemical process.

Each plate is unique and embraces imperfection in its interpretation.

This amazing process is simple, yet complex; beautiful, yet imperfect; classic yet timeless; universal yet individual.

It yields opera of the most personal kind.

It is what I must do.


List of images »»

© 2005 Ken Merfeld
© Ken Merfeld


What is it?

The Wet Plate Collodion Process originated in 1851 when photographic images were first put onto glass [Ambrotypes] and tin [Tintypes]. It is a very sensitive, temperamental process requiring each piece of glass to be hand-coated with a Collodion mixture [guncotton dissolved in ether and alcohol], light sensitized by silver nitrate, exposed and developed while still wet, and fixed in a solution of potassium cyanide. This process requires precise manipulation at all stages through completion of varnishing the plate with a warm mixture of gum sandarac and oil of lavender. The Collodion technique can be somewhat unpredictable while yielding unique, provocative, very personal, highly emotional imagery.

Ken Merfeld



© 2005 Ken Merfeld


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Ken Merfeld

art & design
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