Modern Tintype Photography | Portrait of Jeff

modern wet plate

Look who’s back making tintypes after a long winter… Me!

My favorite model (Jeff Hopkins) sat for me yesterday and after one tiny failure we made these plates. I mention the “tiny failure” because… it was kind of a big deal. Not sure if Jeff knows, but I let out one tiny tear when the first tintype attempt didn’t work. The tear might have been caused by the excessive fumes given off by the heat (or minor ether poisoning…), but really I was nervous that ALL of the plates were gonna turn out blank like this first one did… Then what would I have to say for myself? “Hey guys, I make made tintypes for about six months. And I’m still just showing those ten plates I made on my website. And I probably won’t make anymore cause this whole thing is hard. And costs lots of money. And I’m tired. But yeah, it’s a really dangerous intricate photographic process from the 1800′s. Don’t even try it.”

But whoa baby, we got things working. Turns out the iris didn’t open in the first exposure… the chemistry it turns out DOES work in high temperatures. It was 105° outside when I made these, and my guess is that it was about 109° inside my darkbox. Clearly not safe but I pushed through.

p.s. I’ll be writing more info along with the tintypes when I make them from now on. Like a journal, or whatever. (There are more notes at the end of this post too. And a special SURPRISE!) But for those of you that don’t even know what tintypes are (ie. my mom), just skip the text and look at the photos. Thanks, everybody!


modern tintypemodern tintype

Journal time:

-You might notice that these are the first plates without foliage and plants in the background. This is for two reasons. For one, Austin is in a mega drought right now, it hasn’t been this dry since the dust bowl. All of our outside plants are pretty much dead… A sad time, seeing as my favorite portraits are flowery garden ones. The second reason there aren’t plants, is cause I just wanted to try an experiment. It’s just a white sheet in the background but I like it. In the past, I had stayed away from the sheet trick, cause well… lot’s of tintype photographers use it and it kind of gets old. But hey, it works.

-With the exception of the second plate above, my pouring could use a little help. Or as I prefer to say, and John Coffer would say “Sally Mann would be proud!” I’ll take the latter, thank you very much…. Again, I would like to blame this on the heat. It’s not to say that the chemistry wasn’t working. More like I wasn’t working. When you’re in that box with collodion fuming around you and into your mouth, all you can think about is how fast you have to work to get out. I was rushing, it’s true. Hopefully these lines can be fixed in the future after some more practice, but for now I’ll just say they are on purpose since I’m trying to define my signature look… blah blah blah Sally Mann would be proud!!

-All my formulas are John Coffer’s recipes and the collodion is the Old Reliable version. It’s safe to say that all of them work perfectly in hot weather. The reason for the tiny black speckles are probably chunks of old collodion debris in my pouring bottle. It’s the same bottle I used months ago, and I stupidly let all my chemistry dry up over the winter. So with a little filtration these guys are goners.

-I have to admit these are inspired by Paolo Roversi, my one true photography-love-idol-mega-crush. You can see the look I was going for (NSFW!)here. Of course minus the nudity, but I like the evenness of the light and pulled back framing. Most of my other portraits are tight close up, so I changed it up.

And with Jeff’s help the FINAL SURPRISE:


heather curiel