Since the late Renaissance, artists and inventors had been looking for a mechanical method of capturing visual scenes. Previously, using the camera Obscura, artists would manually trace what they saw, or use the optical image in the camera as a basis for solving the problems of perspective andparallax, and deciding color values.
The Camera Obscura
The Wet-Plate Collodion process, first introduced in 1851, involves coating an enameled metal or glass plate with a collodion mixture, which is then sensitized, exposed and processed all within a few minutes and while the plate is still wet.
The resulting image (while technically a negative) is made up of extremely fine silver particles that are creamy-white in color, which allows the image to be viewed as a positive when seen against a black background. For example, a wet-plate collodion image made on glass (traditionally referred to as an Ambrotype) would appear as a negative when viewed on a light table, but if the plate were held over black velvet (or the back of the plate was painted black) it would appear to be a bright and lustrous positive image.
Thus, the same process can be used to produce both glass-plate negatives and one-of a-kind, direct-positive images on black metal or glass. Either way, wet-plate collodion plates are capable of rendering exceptional detail and extraordinary subtlety in tone. Positive plates have beautiful, milky-metallic quality not unlike a daguerreotype and must be seen firsthand to be truly appreciated.
Michael Schindler’s picture taking process resembles the old style daguerreotype which is a direct-positive process, creating a highly detailed image on a sheet of copper plated with a thin coat of silver without the use of a negative. The daguerreotype, along with the Tintype, is a photographic image allowing no direct transfer of the image onto an intermediate light-sensitive medium, as opposed to glass plate or paper negatives.
Michael Schindler owns a small tintype portrait studio called Photobooth, on Valencia Street in San Francisco. Over the past year, he’s had about 3500 people enter through the doors of his studio and sit in front of the camera to have their portraits made, in the old style Daguerreotype which he terms ” Tintype ” photo style.
Some of the subjects came looking for me and some just wandered in and asked what we were doing there. Either way, I do not choose who I photograph, and I like the exercise of being constantly confronted with new people and having to figure out what I find interesting about them.
I prepare each tintype plate by hand and make a single exposure of each person (occasionally two, if I make a mistake). The tintype is processed immediately so the subject can walk out the door with it about 15 minutes later. Since each plate is a unique direct-positive, there is no negative and only one copy of the image exists. So, I scan them before I give them away. But this is something I very much like about tintypes: they are things, actual objects!
Michael’s mode de Photographie, is indeed a unique process by modern day image standards, which combines and Old Age Era with Modern Technology which gives way to a distinctively unique result in photo imaging. Enjoy some of his work, and next time you find yourself in San Francisco you may want to visit Michael’s Portrait Studio and have your own portrait made as well.
The Daguerrotyping “Tintype” Process in Modern Times
Michael Schindler’s “Tintype” Photography