The Night of Tintype.
Last Saturday started out pretty typically. (is there ever a typical Saturday?) I set up the studio and darkroom/bathroom to shoot some wet plates. My friend Alisha is getting married and wanted to do a little bridal portrait session in her wedding dress. I offered to do a few tintypes as well as the digital shots she was after. Something a little old and special. I love the idea that people will keep forever, the images I make of them in this medium. It becomes an artifact of a moment in time. We just had a couple hours so I only shot three plates. They’re pretty nice. I would post them, but I guess the fiancee isn’t supposed to see the dress before the wedding. Tradition. Superstition. Top Secret. After the shoot with Alisha, I headed to my parents for a barbecue for my Grandmother’s birthday.
On my way out of my building, I run into my downstairs neighbor, Rosanna who was wrenching on her Harley. We say hello for a minute, chit chat about the bike that she just restored and I ask her what she’s up to that night. Thinking that if she were free, it would be fun to hang out, have a few drinks and catch up. Plan some projects together. We do that sometimes. But no, she has plans. She and a bunch of friends are going out for Dani’s birthday. I photographed Dani and her fiancee Maverick in tintype a few months ago. Cool I say, have fun! Catch ya later. And head off to my parents house.
Nice day with my parents, grandparents and some cousins, cousin’s kids. Brick chicken. Baked potatoes. I tried to berate my cousin Jackie into voting for Bernie. . . She’s not having it.
Later that evening, I’m back at my place and I’m still feeling an itch to experiment. I had everything set up and I only shot three plates that day. Its kind of a pain in the ass to set up and then take everything down. So I decide to start playing around with some self portraits. I’ve been wanting to perfect a really tight head and shoulder’s shot on a large format. 6x6 and 8x10. To shoot this tight, I need to use a long lens. My longest 19” is a little slow at F7.7, plus I need some extra bellows compensation, so I loose light there too. Long story short, its really hard to shoot this way with my current equipment and set up. I’m still tinkering with it. AND its really hard to shoot selfies with an 8x10 Deardorff in wet collodion.
Anyway, I become bored and frustrated with trying to make this work. I’m sitting on the couch procrastinating putting my toys away, scrolling through Instagram and I see a post from Rosanna of her and the birthday gang at Albany Bowl. I comment, “Come over for a birthday tintype! I’m all set up.” And Dani, comments, within ten minutes, “We’re coming!”
I change the lighting set up a little. Swap out the 8x10 for the 4x5, thinking its a little easier to manage and more appropriate for mass production. An hour or so later, theres a bunch of people in the studio, drinking Coors and PBR, hanging out, making pictures. Dani has had an interest in collodion for a while so I teach her how to coat plates. So I'm shooting and she's making plates which was a real luxury. Got into a nice flow. Made a cool little body of work.
This day was a perfect collision of possibility and intention.