Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Tintype Men

A companion piece to my last post, "Tintype Women." The professional tintypist couldn't go down to the local camera store and buy materials. He had to buy sheet iron, either lacquer or paint the metal, make his photographic emulsions from basic chemicals, and often make his own camera. Because every photographer didn't have the same level of technical skill, tintypes often have ridges where the emulsion was unevenly applied. Variation in chemical mixing meant that some tintypes were more sensitive to light than others allowing for shorter exposures. Tintypes, like many other early photographic process were a one off. Without a separate negative, it was impossible to go into the lab and make additional prints. Some photographers built cameras with multiple lenses so that they could make multiple exposures at once. Note that the second image in the group is a copy made from another tintype. It's impossible to tell, but that may be a thumb holding the original when the exposure was made. Since tintypes are flopped, a tintype copy of another tintype would be right reading. The heavily damaged image not only shows a great deal of corrosion of the metal base and missing emulsion, but a loss of the underlying black coating that makes the tintype negative appear positive. As usual, click on tintype in the labels section for more info on the history of tintypes.

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