Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Visit To the Photographer (or, Having Our Likeness Taken)

I love it when Civil war era reenactments will have a tintype photographer ready and willing to take the likeness of a period-dressed participant. To watch these artists work their magic in creating photographic images from the tin plates and a few chemicals with water simply amazes me. You would think that in our day and age of digital technology something as antiquated as this process of making pictures wouldn't hold any modern fellow's attention in the least, but it certainly does for me. But then, I'm not necessarily a modern fellow, am I? At least not to the full extent of what a modern fellow is.
Maybe it's because it takes a human to create this image instead of a computer. Yeah, yeah, I know - humans create computer programs to give us the means to have our digital cameras and photo processing right at our fingertips. With the program I own - Paint Shop Pro - I can do most anything to my digital pictures with the click of a mouse, including making them look like ancient tintypes, create ghost photos, brighten or darken images, take people or unwanted items out of the pictures (or add to them), repair old scratchy pictures, create sketches...the list could go on and on.
But observing a tintype master at work is an amazing thing. I suppose it's not unlike watching a carpenter build a beautiful quality cabinet in comparison to a put-together-puzzle-like press board piece-of-crap shelf from the local convenience store - not that I think of Paint Shop Pro as a piece of crap. I hope you understand what I'm trying to say here. 19th century photography is a craft that, as I stated above, simply amazes me.
So, won't you join me on my digital photographic journey showing picture-taking in its infancy?

These are just a few of the chemicals I saw being used in the preparation process of having an image taken of my daughter and I. There were also chemicals used to develop the tintype after we spent time sitting in front of the camera.


Here is the "dark room" used in preparing the tin plate. Don't ask me what the photographer does in here. He was pretty busy with not only photographing his subjects, but speaking to the modern visitors. Though I heard him explain a little about the process to them, I didn't want to butt into his presentation. I also didn't think to have paper and  pencil to write down what he was saying.

 
This is what the inside of his "dark room" looks like.


Timing is everything. One one-thousand, two one-thousand, three one-thousand...

 
This is the camera. I was told it's an original from 1864. Kind of intimidating isn't it? Can you imagine having your image taken for the first time back in the 1860's, never before seeing anything like this? Yikes!


This is how my daughter and I posed for our tintype.


The photographer's assistant made sure we were centered properly.





Out came the photographer from his dark room preparation to put the plate into the camera.





It took a bit of time for preparing to take our picture. For one thing, since we were outside, the sun light could wreak havoc on the whole process.


 
Okay - here we go! Time for our image to be immortalized.

This is how it looked to us, and...
  
...this is how it looks to the photographer. Well, in a way - - this wasn't us here. The photographer allowed me to photograph what it looks like under the covering while he took a young lady's image. Not only is the image in the camera upside down, but it's reversed!!


This is the young lady who's image you see in the above picture.
  
Anyhow - with our image taken, the photographer's assistant begins the development process. Besides the chemicals, water is also included in all of this.

It seems that pouring water onto the just taken image is the key to the development.


And then she swished the water around, making sure that the tin negative continued to be mixed.
  
Hey! Look what's happening...!!


How cool is that?? Much, much cooler than having a computer program take care of it, eh?


And voila! Here is the fully developed tintype of my daughter and I, taken on June 8, 2013. Is it perfect? Well, to be honest, yes it is! It's exactly what I wanted (it looks stretched because I took a picture of it with my, ahem, digital camera in order to show you all how it turned out. I took the picture on an angle to prevent glare..)

So, there you have it! A trip to see the circuit-riding photographer. No matter how often I watch the process of 1860's photography, it never ceases to amaze me.

Thanks must go to Kristen - the girl in the blue dress - for she took a number of photos you see here with my camera. Awesome job!!

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1 comment:

Vivian LeMay said...

What a great post Historical Ken. :)

Vivian LeMay