Sunday, December 14, 2014

Learned something new, er, I mean, old.

This is NOT an old photograph called a tintype.

It was NOT taken on a "wet glass plate" using the colloidal process.

It was taken in a studio in a mall about 20 years ago in Minneapolis the one year I lived in a VERY cold climate. I'm not as dumb as I look - I accepted the first job I was offered in Florida.

They asked if I wanted to come down and visit and I said it was not necessary. I accepted the job because it was in Florida...not Minnesota.

But, I digress.

At the December 10 meeting of my Photography Group, we saw a presentation by Christine Eadie, a legal secretary who calls her old timey process company Charleston Tintypist.

Get it? She's a typist and makes tintype photos on metal. The same process used during the Civil War.

Or, as it is called here, the "Recent Unpleasantness."

Back in the 1860s, if you wanted to make a large photo, it required a large camera.

This is an 8 x 10 bellows camera that used a wet plate that size. This is a much newer model but the lens is quite old.

Christine explained the step-by-step process and then told how she packs up all her accessories and goes into the field at local battle Re-enactments.

She reasoned these costumed participants would appreciate the authenticity of having their photo taken this way.

She said that has worked well so far.

But they also expected all of her equipment to be the Real McCoy too.

Short of building a mule-drawn portable darkroom wagon, she works on a much smaller scale.

The process (see the link) does involve some caustic chemicals and she wears modern protective safety glasses and takes other steps to avoid injury.

She told us that the "fixer" that stabilizes the image on the wet glass is Potassium Cyanide.

Yeah, pretty dangerous stuff that can blind you if it splashes into your eyes. Same with Silver Halide crystals.

That happened to the famed photographer Mathew Brady, while he covered the aftermath of Civil War battles.

Christine said many of the photos we attribute to Brady were taken by his many assistants after his vision was impaired.

The real beauty of these tintypes, preserved on thin sheets of iron, is they are "varnished" at the end and exist in fine shape even after 150 years.

With today's dependence on digital, one could not be assured that images would be available after changes in software!

Christine brought half a dozen of her finished products as part of her presentation.

We photographers had many questions and foremost was the length of exposure on this "slow speed" medium.

She said an exposure of 3-10 seconds often was required.

Illustrations of various clamps and devices were shown that were used to hold the subject's head steady.

Any movement would cause a blur.

Other contraptions were clamped to hold a subject's body in place during the exposure to avoid such blurring.

I asked if she had experimented with using a modern flash and she said she had.

I commented that photographers during that period who used flash powder probably could be recognized because they lacked eyebrows.

Laughter ensued.

(Click on the photos for more details.)

The links I added will give you more background on the topic and I am sure Christine would be willing and able to answer your questions.

I see flash powder being used in photos taken in the 1920s and later.

Well, I used flashbulbs when I started out. Anyone remember those?

Now my camera has a built-in strobe light that flashes at 1/2000th of a second.


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