American Tintype: “I found what I was always looking for.”

Do take a look at this fascinating and beautifully photographed mini-documentary by Matt Morris that provides us with a thoughtful and beautiful look at the old process of tintype photography (via PetaPixel). As an amateur historian who unsurprisingly also has a love for old things, tintype has always fascinated me—the photographs being little portraits of our own past. Now, at least one photographer has revived the process.

Isn’t that a wonderful documentary?

The part that really struck me most was when tintype photographer Harry Taylor mentioned the perfectibility of digital photography (having some knowledge about the matter, we’ll have to include film photography as well—this Hurrell portrait of a young Joan Crawford says much) compared to the fruit of the tintype process, which is so very detailed and…alive. A twenty-second exposure can capture a whole lot of life and spirit.

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to look at old tintypes or daguerrotypes, the amount of detail is really impressive, and the monotone aspect of the images often makes them look borderline three-dimensional to me—such depth! Taylor’s tintype photos are much the same; you won’t be able to hide imperfections very much at all in them, but is that such a bad thing? Then again, because I’m a documentary photographer, perhaps that’s why “imperfection” isn’t so offensive to me—unless, of course, I’m shooting someone’s classic car for them (no one wants a dust or water speck in a picture of their ‘baby’!).


3 thoughts on “American Tintype: “I found what I was always looking for.”

  1. Loved it Jen, thanks for sharing that. My post today is also about old photographs, that’s funny.

    It’s awesome that he’s learned the art of making these beautiful and sometimes haunting portraits. I also admired the landscapes. Wouldn’t it be great to sit for one, such a treasure to have. The latch closure on the camera was indicative of the simplicity of the equipment but there’s nothing simplistic about what is captured in the lens. I appreciated his observations about the way we live, all plugged in. It’s mindful to recognize that we could, and maybe should, live in the moment more often.

    • I’ll have to pop over and take a look. Glad you liked this—I actually watched it twice in a row, it’s so neat!

      I’ve learned the hard way to live life in the moment. Having looked death square in the eye twice in just the past ten years…Boy, it sure teaches you a few things!

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