This past spring, Lindsey Ross took the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner down the coast of Southern California, to install a 20-by-24-inch glass plate photograph at an engineering firm in San Diego. The image was of a power station perched above Bridal Veil Falls, near Telluride, CO, and her commission was a partial trade for a mid-2000s Ford F-150 pickup. Nothing fancy, but it was in good condition and had an extended bed. The stickered serial number on the side indicated it had belonged to a fleet of white work trucks.
It was her third that year. She’d worn out the other two.
With her petite frame and easy smile, it might be difficult to picture Ross—in thick canvas coveralls and steel-toed Redwing boots—maneuvering her 200-pound camera in the snowy Colorado wilderness or the stark California desert, let alone regularly driving trucks to early deaths. But those automotive fatalities are testament to the rugged terrain she covers and her hard, unrelenting work ethic.
Ross’ particular artwork requires gear, and lots of it. While she will opt for rolls of expired film during ski trips, her established medium is wet-plate collodion, a 19th-century photographic process recorded on a substrate of glass or metal. It’s incredibly labor-intensive, and results in one-of-a-kind pieces, meditations on places and people who seem to straddle modern limits of timelessness.
Among her most recent projects are snow-covered mining ruins in Telluride and lit-up yucca plants at night in Joshua Tree, CA. But, over the years, her subject matter has included a conceptual war-torn America, transcendent root vegetables, and Sweetgrass Productions’ 2013 film Valhalla. One constant, however, has been portraiture. This is in part out of economic necessity, but is primarily to record the characters she encounters—psychedelic musicians, conceptual artists and dedicated skiers…