My tintypes are on display this week. I’m the featured artist at Andrea Brands’s Phippsburg art gallery.
My work as a newspaper photojournalist at the Bangor Daily News is fast. I can easily click off five or six-hundred frames in a day. Then I edit them, upload a few of them and see them online in minutes. They appear in newsprint within hours and my pictures are often wrapped around a fish a day later. That’s OK with me. It’s my profession and I wouldn’t want any other job in the world.
However, I’ve always been interested in historic, analogue photographic processes, too. In parallel with my digital work in the news business, I’ve learned to make cyanotypes, kallitypes and Van Dyke prints. I learned to shoot and develop negatives as large as 8×10 inches in my darkroom. (Yes, I still have a darkroom.) These bygone photo techniques are often time-consuming and cumbersome by today’s standards. I like them because they force me to slow down and think about each shot, each print, each picture.
This interest in the old ways eventually brought me to wet plate photography in 2006. The wet plate technique encompasses tintypes, ambrotypes and glass negatives. It was synonymous with the word “photography” for the second half of the 19th century. It’s called the wet plate process because the plate must be prepared, sensitized, exposed, developed and fixed in the field without the plate drying out.
Each picture is unique. There is no negative and no digital copy. No two are alike. Sometimes, I hand color the image (as was often done in the old days) before I finish with a coat of sandarac and lavender varnish.
If you’d like to see more of my work, go to my website at www.mysteryjig.com.
My special thanks go out to my wife Kris Hall, Andrea Brand and Seth Koenig. BIggest thanks go to my wet plate teacher, John A. Coffer of Dundee, New York.