Researching last week, I found this great short doc by filmmaker Matt Morris. In “American Tintype” – Morris profiles North Carolina-based photographer/artist Harry Taylor. Seeking distraction during his mother’s illness, Taylor began examining what was important to him as a photographer and felt he had exhausted the mediums he worked with most frequently. Enter, tintype.
Tintype is a photograph made by creating a direct positive on a sheet of iron metal that is blackened by painting, lacquering or enamelling and is used as a support for a collodion photographic emulsion*. I can’t pretend to know too much about tintype, especially since it’s so similar to wet plate photography and I thought they were the same thing. Without getting too much into the science of it, the process was developed in the 1850s and is experiencing somewhat of a resurgence with Civil War reenactments and clearly, with photographers delving into vintage techniques.
Since being exposed to tintype years ago, I feel like I see it all the time now. There’s something about old photographs – or even new photographs that look old, that seem to capture a spirit of the moment as it exists in memory. Faded at the sides, often in black and white, and rife with subjects that seem to emote a restlessness in having their picture taken. Are you familiar with tintype? Do you have any favorite photographers?