Thursday, June 19, 2014


Margaret recently worked her way through a big box of old family pictures and turned up a couple tintypes.  The group portrait is about 4 in × 5 3⁄4 in, while the picture of the fellow in the truncated top hat is about 2 3⁄8 in × 3 1⁄2 in.

These were apparently the most popular sizes for tintypes from when they first became popular around the time of the U.S. Civil War.  Judging by the clothing styles, I'm guessing these portraits of Margaret's distant kin were made in the 1890s.

I have a smaller tintype of my grandfather made around the same time.  It looks like it was folded in half and carried around in someone's billfold for a long time.  Nearly all the old tintypes suffer some damage over the decades, but that really just adds a bit more character, and the images have great appeal still.  I'd like to try my hand at the process some time.

Someone who has produced a significant body of tintype work in modern times is Joni Sternbach.  Her marvelous large format portraits of surfers from around the world have been featured often in print and on line, and she now has a Kickstarter project to produce a book.  The project page provides some good  details about her equipment, materials and techniques along with some samples of the pictures that will be used.  A large selection of her work may also be viewed at her web site.

Sternbach achieved nearly twice her goal for her Kickstarter project.


Jim Grey said...

How cool is that! I love seeing people using these archaic photographic processes and getting good images from them. It keeps a spirit alive, and shows that these processes were quite capable. I will always admire from afar, however, as rollfilm is as archaic as I will ever personally enjoy.

Mike said...

Overcoming inertia is always a challenge. I've only tackled a few simple alternative processes including cyanotypes and caffenol. Freestyle has a lot of kits that can save one the trouble of assembling the pieces. Their tintype kit looks like it would be pretty easy to get started with provided one has some kind of camera that accepts film holders.