A BOLTON artist has found inspiration in a somewhat grisly form for a series of photographs to be exhibited in Manchester.

Tony Richards, who lives in Westhoughton, has had four images from his series “Things My Cats Kill” included in Porter and Jenkinson’s exhibition Curious Pursuits, which previews at the Portico Library and Gallery this evening.

But while the subject matter might sound gory, the “presents” brought him by his two rescue cats, Brian and Diesel, are actually transformed into works of art by Tony’s use of an unusual technique known as wet plate collodion photography.

The technique was the primary method of photography from the 1850s to the 1880s, and ties in with Porter and Jenkinson’s exploration of Victorian aesthetics in the new exhibition.

“My rescue cats bring me home little presents, “ says Tony. “Among the wet plate photo community they do photograph some odd stuff, so it seemed quite apt.”

The pictures are also inspired by the Victorian practice of momento mori, where families would have photographs taken of recently dead family members.

“In Victorian times it was quite popular to have photographs of dead children as a memorial keepsake, so this links in with that in quite a tongue-in-cheek way,” he says.

Tony is a full-time photographer, but during office hours works with a digital camera, so describes this archaic practice as a welcome relief from his day job.

“It’s very hands-on, very smelly!” he says. “When you see the plates themselves they are more than just a photograph, they are more of an artefact.”

Each plate is unique, and Tony says he has to be very careful during developing not to scratch or damage the plates. But he says that the satisfaction of seeing the end product more than makes up for the difficulty of the process.

“That magic when you’re in the dark room and the pictures start to come up — wet plate is the origin of that,” he says. “Each plate cannot be recreated — it’s the total opposite of digital photography.”

• Curious Pursuits runs at the Portico Library and Gallery, in Mosley Street, Manchester, until February 29. Admission is free. For more information about Tony’s work, visit his website, fourtoes.co.uk.