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See 1800s-style photos of the cast of Little Women
Photography Wilson Webb, via Instagram @littlewomenmovie

See 1800s-style photos of the cast of Little Women

Photographer Wilson Webb goes back in time with Saoirse Ronan, Timothée Chalamet, Florence Pugh, Laura Dern, and more

In Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird, our faves Saoirse Ronan and Timothée Chalamet perfectly encapsulated that early 00s teen angst and aesthetic. Gerwig’s glorious take on Little Women, in contrast, sees Ronan and Chalamet in mid 1800s Massachusetts. In a newly released set of images, photographer Wilson Webb helps us on the visual journey back to Louisa May Alcott’s Concord with an of-the-era photoshoot.

Using a mid 1800s photographic style, known as the collodion process, Webb captured the March family – Jo (Ronan), Amy (Florence Pugh), Meg (Emma Watson), Beth (Eliza Scanlen), and their ‘marmee’ (Laura Dern) and dad (Bob Odenkirk) – along with Laurie (Chalamet), Jo’s love interest, Friedrich Bhaer (Louis Garrel), and Meg’s husband John Brooke (James Norton). 

Sharing the photos on Twitter, Webb said: “The actors were very accommodating and enjoyed seeing the process of making each image. I explained what I was doing and they could see the image fade from black as it developed.”

According to the Little Women Twitter account, the collodion process was invented around 1851, and “is also known as tin type or wet plate photography”. In order to create a successful image, “the photo has to be taken while the tin or plate is wet with light sensitive chemicals and exposed before the plate dries”. Each photo requires “around 25,000 Watt-seconds of flash”, which is apparently “so bright” that you can feel and smell the heat of the light, “similar to a thunderstorm”. 

In this method of photography, warm colours appear dark, while cool ones are light, meaning “care has to be taken about what colours are in clothing and backdrops”. The process of creating the images took around 40 minutes.

“The actors had to sit very still,” explained Webb, “not because the exposure was long, but because the amount of image in focus is less than one inch deep. It takes 10-20 seconds to set up the plate to be exposed, so if someone moved slightly the photo would be out of focus.”

You can see all of the photos on the Twitter thread below, or on the Little Women Instagram account, where you can also get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the process on the film’s Stories.