A darkroom in the park

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Saturday was a HOT day for an outdoor photography workshop, but it was well worth the pouring sweat to learn from Lisa Elmaleh how to produce tintypes. The workshop, offered through the Center for Alternative Photography, took place in a tent out at Photoville. In six hours we covered the entire process, from coating the plate with collodion to varnishing the final tintype.

Historically, tintypes were created with sheets of japanned iron (not tin), unlike the coated aluminum that we used last weekend for its stability and low cost. We also varnished the completed plates with Soluvar in place of gum sandarac and lavender oil, to avoid having to heat the resin. The result is still the same, though, adding a protective coating to prevent silver mirroring. The rest of the wet collodion process–used for both negatives and direct positives–was historically accurate, and can be seen from start to finish in this wonderful video from the George Eastman House (below).  I really commend tintype photographers for their hand skills and intuition about exposure and development times. The hardest part of the process, however, is completing every step on the spot before the collodion starts to dry!

I just want to say thank you to the Professional Development Award Committee for granting me the funds for this workshop. I’m positive (pun intended) this experience will be helpful in my future as a photograph conservator!

**Please don’t forget to wear personal protective equipment in your practice–gloves and goggles WILL prevent cancer and blindness.

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