Strike a pose like it’s 1850

| 27 Apr 2012 | 12:00

Warwick photographer Francesco Mastalia is tracking down organic farmers and chefs and trying to get them to sit absolutely still for half a minute. Eventually, he’ll make the portraits and accompanying interviews into an art book: “Organic: Farmers & Chefs of the Hudson Valley.”Mastalia is one of about a hundred people in the world using the 19th century wet plate collodion process. That’s how the portrait of Lincoln on the five dollar bill was shot. He uses large wooden cameras, antique brass lenses, and hand coated glass plates, and develops the photo in trays of water and fixing agent, on site, in a portable dark room. Temperature and humidity affect the process, so each image has a life of its own.

Guy Jones of Blooming Grove supplies produce to high-end restaurants in the city like Tabla and Eataly

“When digital photography came around, I ran in the opposite direction,” Mastalia said. “It in itself is an organic process. There’s no way to take the same picture twice. Even the way you pour chemicals on the plate becomes a factor in how the plate will look.”

Mastalia has traveled the world photographing tribal, religious, spiritual and indigenous people. His last book, “Dreads,” a photo documentary on the history of dreadlocks, is published in four languages. Now he’s turning his focus home.

“The food movement in the valley is just growing and growing,” said Mastalia. “You meet a completely different breed of person at farmers markets.”