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On 1883 & tintypes

Do you like Westerns, history or outlaws? You might be familiar with the hit television series 1883.

Weird intro for a website showcasing beautiful, natural light photography of smiling, happy families, but okay. Let’s get into it. Stay with me now. So, you’ve heard of 1883 (and if you haven’t a quick Google search will show you what I’m talking about.) When I first learned about the show I was in my father’s living room. My dad is a lot like me - funny, creative, stubborn as hell, and extremely passionate about his media consumption. That’s a fancy way of saying that he’s a bit of a couch potato (or technically, a leather armchair potato.) He’s also the hardest working man I know. I should probably add that bit in there so he doesn’t get annoyed with me if he ever reads this. Love you, dad! Anyway, I had just eaten a meal that he and my stepmom so lovingly provided, and we were nestled around the television to watch a show they were both excited to show me.

My dad is a huge fan of Westerns. The man has seen every John Wayne movie made countless times, so this popular resurgence of the genre has been on his radar in a big way.

Cozied up together, we fired up the first episode of the series. I promptly got distracted by the incredible intro. It shows the characters in a type of photography that was popular at the time - the tintype.

Here’s the encyclopedia Britannica’s definition:

tintype, also called ferrotype, positive photograph produced by applying a collodion-nitrocellulose solution to a thin, black-enameled metal plate immediately before exposure.”

“Woah! How cool, they’re using a historical type of photography for the intro of this show set in the 1800s” - an approximation of what I probably said.

“Okay, nerd. Shut up and watch the show we’re restarting just to share it with you.” - my dad, most likely.

Since that moment I haven’t been able to get the idea of tintypes out of my head. Which is weird, because the tintype wasn’t a completely new phenomenon to me. A photographer I know showed me the art form years ago. I even had one done! It was a weird, but fascinating process of sitting completely still in a dark studio till a bright light blinded me. I watched him pour solutions on the plate of glass till an image appeared. A photo printed on glass. Like alchemy. A type of magic. Then again, I think all photography is a type of magic.

Knowing my dad’s fondness for Westerns, I looked up people who still offered the service of taking analog tintypes in the Columbus area. It would make a fabulous Christmas or birthday gift. Just plugging that you can absolutely purchase photography packages for gifts. Contact me for more information. Also, before I get too distracted, let me share one of the photographers I found in my research: Stephen Takacs is a Columbus, Ohio photographer who dabbles in the very cool, very old school process of tintypes. Check out his work if listening to me rant and rave about this cool technique has you interested in having your very own hunk of metal or glass emblazoned with your face. It is a fascinating service he's offering to the world, and a one-of-a-kind gift.

In the process of researching, it occurred to me that I could probably recreate the look on a digital image.

So that’s what I did.

A man and a woman in a vintage tintype
My father and my stepmom looking very dignified and dapper

It’s always cool to have a loose idea in my head, then having the equipment and skills to make that a reality.

After two practice sessions with friends with successful results, I shared the photos I took with my dad and offered to shoot him and my stepmom as a kind of Valentine’s gift.

Having them in my studio was cool. As I gain experience shooting portraits, I also gain experience directing people through posing. It’s always different, though, to apply that to people that I know and love. To be honest, it felt cool to show him how I work. I think the photos turned out great, and I hope they love them as much as I do.

Doesn't everyone want images that are as unique as they are?

I’m writing this all not only to share my latest creation, but to demonstrate that as a photographer I love trying new things. Whatever crazy, exciting idea my clients have, I will do everything I can to make that a reality. If you’re interested in tintype recreations (they have the added benefit of professional digital retouching and endless chances to nail the shot) reach out and book a mini session with me for half off. Use the code ‘tintype’ to secure your session before the busy season fills up. Offer valid through June 1st, 2023.

A man and a woman in a vintage tintype photo recreation
This one was my favorite. Taken in my home photography studio in Columbus, Ohio.

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