Basic Tintype Workshop at the George Eastman House

This year I will be teaching the History of Photojournalism course at Loyalist College’s Photojournalism Program for the fifth straight year. Much of the course is dedicated to helping students understand how technical breakthroughs in the photographic medium have lead to today's enhanced storytelling capabilities and standards. By looking at history and understanding how visual storytelling has been applied we hope to inform the work we do today.

The wet plate collodion process was invented in 1851 by Frederick Scott Archer who was an amateur photographer seeking a less complicated process than the daguerreotype. By the 1880’s wet plate photography was all but replaced by the gelatin dry plate as these glass plates were much more stable and could be carried into the field and returned to the darkroom for development later. A wet plate must be exposed and developed before it dries out generally thought to be about ten minutes.

Self Portrait Tintype

Like many learners I can read all the history books in the world on the processes but in order to truly appreciate the application of a photographic process I need to get involved. So I began to research online tutorials and workshops and I discovered the workshops at the George Eastman House and Museum.

The Drive down to Rochester was beautiful passing through the Finger Lakes and Rochester is actually quite a nice small city. The bonus for me was that there was a wonderful Lewis Hine exhibit on while I was at the Eastman house. If you ever get the chance I highly recommend a visit.

Self Portrait - Too Close - Tintype
The workshop itself was lead by Mark Osterman the Process Historian at the George Eastman House. Mark proved to be a wealth of knowledge and insisted on teaching us the best technique for not only shooting clean plates but also troubleshooting the process when we attempt to apply it on our own. Mark is also half of Scully Osterman and with his wife France Scully they teach workshops around the world and exhibit their own personal work. Check their site

The original tintype artists were Ferrotypists as the plate was made of iron today we use aluminium trophy plate. Some civil war re-enactors  find antique biscuit tins to use.

Still Life with Skull - Tintype

Overall learning basic tintype was a valuable experience for my personal development as a photographer and as an educator, I look forward to the day that I use a historic process in my own photographic work.