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Tintype photography

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I had been researching collodion wet plate photography on and off for months. I thought I would have to implement the technique on my own just to experience it, unlike in the united states wet plate photography is very niche in Australia. I even researched making my own collodion, quite absurd unless you’re certain you want to devote yourself to the process. This all changed when I met Ellie Young from Gold street Studios, she teaches a tintype workshop among others and hosts many artists who teach a large range of workshops related to printmaking or alternative photography.

Tintype photography workshop

I booked a workshop in scenic trentham and arrived ready to learn as much as possible and record it on paper i never needed. A printed copy of notes was prepared for me as I walked in, as was coffee and a box with my name on it to take home my tintypes.

Pouring collodion

The first thing we did was practice pouring plates which was a lot of fun. It feels like a performance, there is a timing technique and a dexterous challenge. Pouring the plate contributes to the aesthetic quality of your tintype so you feel an exciting pressure.

Tintype lens

I had purchased a new lens before the tintype workshop. The idea was to have a vintage experience from using a period appropriate lens, with the advantage of a good fast aperture. It didn’t cost too much to get a lens that gave me f4 and covered 5×4, the drawback was I could only shoot at f4 and I did not have a shutter or any aperture inserts.This made exposure a difficult variable, luckily the light was consistently overcast and I got my results by counting out one to two second exposures

Wetplate chemistry

Chemicals were pre prepared in sequence and it was all made as simple as you wanted it to be there were no secret recipes and Ellie was completely informative of her process. It must be mentioned that Gold street studios does not use any potassium cyanide which only speeds the same result achieved with regular fixer. I was supplied with gloves and eye protection and feel there is nothing to fear whilst respecting the chemistry.

Collodion wetplate process

I’ll summarize the process in a simplified way so it is easy to visualise. First we poured gloo on a clean black plate. Turn the lights to safe mode then soak the plate in silver nitrate. Put it in a camera and expose an image whilst it’s still wet. Rinse the plate in developer under safe light, wash, fix, lights on, wash more and then dry.

We all love the characteristics of the tintypes but if you’re not tidy and methodical they can get out of control. Dust in a critical place can be unfavourable, as are your fingerprints.

Goldstreet Studios provided a great home cooked lunch and I wasn’t shy about getting seconds, you need the sustenance to run around all day with big cameras.

The workshop was a great experience I would recommend as is the process I will likely revisit when I use up all my lithographic film.

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