Wild Aesthetic – Fine Art Tintype Photography

Wild Aesthetic - Tintype - Collodion Plate - 020

Yesterday I had a lot of fun with Tintype photography!  (I know I look super serious but you kind of have to, to hold still for the long exposure required!)  I went down to Southampton and visited my lovely friend Ange and her business partner Bex.  Together they are Wild Aesthetic and create beautiful Tintype photographic plates.  (Bex and Ange below)

This whole process fascinates me.  I was that kid that wanted a chemistry set but wasn’t allowed one because I would probably have blown something up or at least done some serious damage!  I used to love working in the darkroom, spending hours playing around to get the perfect exposure for a print.  You really can manipulate a negative in a similar way to a digital image, the process is just slower, calmer and you have to learn the craft, it takes time, practice and dedication.  I found it all so satisfying and yesterday was just the same.  We made 5 plates in two and a half hours, one was completely under exposed (slight mishap with the aperture) and one was too dark as we were experimenting with adding in more lights so 3 good prints in total and I managed to mess one of those up when I got home by simply not being careful with it! So you might be thinking ‘Blooming Heck, this all sounds like a lot of hassle’ but it’s the uncertain nature of the outcome and the fragility of the finished project that draws me to processes like these.  Every step in the process has to be just right or you won’t have a chance of capturing an image and then that one image is it, there’s no RAW file to fall back on, no negative from which to make many more prints.

This is the darkroom.  It’s a van!  It’s portable!  It’s so cool!!!  

The lighting set up is surprisingly simple.  A little stool, a white wall, daylight balanced bulbs as the Tintypes only respond to UV light.  The Large format camera takes 5×4″ plates so that’s the size of your finished print.  I’ve used these camera’s before with film.  Viewing the image upside down and back to front on the ground glass screen is always amazing.  The image always has so much more depth to it than viewing your image through a view finder.  I thought I’d be intimidated by this set up as I really hate having my photo taken but I found I was just so fascinated watching Ange set everything up that I forgot about feeling paranoid.

The first thing to do is prepare the plate. The tin comes with a protective coating which must first be peeled off.

The plate is then coated with Collodion.  

The excess is poured back into the bottle.  

The lights are then turned off (the plates are not sensitive to red light) and the plate in placed in a light tight tank that contains the Silver Nitrate.  The Collodion draws the Silver Nitrate to it and forms a light sensitive surface on the plate.

While the plate is in the Silver there is time to prepare the water and developer needed to process the slide after exposure.

Excess chemicals are drained off the plate and it’s inserted into the light tight ‘Darkslide’ ready to be placed in the camera.

The photo is taken.

Developer is poured over the plate.  This needs to be done quickly and precisely as any missed parts won’t be developed and if one area starts to develop too long before another area you are left with quite obvious lines and marks.

When the eyes (where you’ve focused) start to show really clearly, water is poured over the plate to remove the developer.  It now looks like a negative and the lights can be turned on.

Placing the plate in fix removes any waste chemicals and reveals the positive image. The last stage is to wash well in water and dry.

It was a real privilege to be able to be shown this process and have a little go myself.  If you love photography and fancy getting your portrait done then I can not recommend these lovely ladies enough.  Check out their website Wild Aesthetic and drop them a line.

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