About the Photographer

Kolster, Michael

American, b. 1963

In his "Take Me to the River" series, Michael Kolster photographs four American rivers that have been heavily polluted for the past two centuries by surrounding industry. Since the establishment of the Clean Water Act in 1972, the water quality is improving, and the natural beauty of the rivers are again emerging. Kolster creates ambrotypes of the landscape using the wet plate collodion process—a photographic process that was invented and used in the mid-19th century and utilized by Civil War photographers—exposing the negatives on-site using a portable darkroom. Working with this time consuming and unwieldly process both references the history of the landscape and its demise, while also visually mirroring the contamination of the river as seen in the flaws of the glass plates. Michael Kolster is included in the permanent collections of the George Eastman House, Rochester, NY; the International Museum of Photography and Film, Rochester, NY; the High Museum, Atlanta, GA; and the American University of Paris, France; among others.