Old photo portraits can be so fascinating. Photos from the late 1800s always have a distinct quality about them; the subject's often look severe. Their eyes are piercing with a suprising amount of sharpness and light. I assumed people from that time just looked different, the stern quality of their faces and the intensity of their eyes being a result of the times they lived in.
Several years ago, I heard more about tinytype photography, also known as also known as a melainotype or ferrotype photography. Most widely used in the 1860s and 1870s, the use of this type of photography waned but has made a comeback 150 years as a novelty.
When I first saw these type of portraits taken in modern day, I was captivated. Those same qualities that I had thought were unique to people from that time, were captured in these tintype photographs. I realized it was the particular type of photography and process that was capturing this vivid intensity of its subjects. Even a photo taken today, will end up looking "old fashioned".
The process itself is quite interesting. A metal plate is coated with a solution that has silver halide supsended in it. The metal plate slides in to the camera, and (to overly simplify, read more detail here) this solution reacts to the intensity and duration of it its exposure to light creating an image. A process that surely seemed like magic back then, but honestly still seems like magic today as you watch your portrait come to life - first appearing as a negative image and magically changing to the positive right before your eyes in under a minute.
Well, I had been patiently waiting for an opportunity to have our portraits done this way, and on Tuesday, Huckleberry was having a little pop-up where The Folklorist was taking these portraits with her 100+ year old camera. I booked a spot for Raffa and I without hesitation.
To have your portrait taken you have to sit still for 7 seconds - completely still. You blink quickly but otherwise you must sit completely still. I wasn't sure how that would work for Raffa, but he went first and we got the most perfect portrait of him on our first try. When it was my turn, I was surprised how challenging it was to sit so still ... I mean, it is only 7 seconds, but it was more challenging than I anticipated.
These portraits are all I had hoped they would be. And the whole process - from sitting for the portrait to watching them develop - was magic.
I am having Raffa's framed - I dropped it off at a frame shop yesterday. They will float mount the tin type on a mat. They let me come in and handwrite "Raffa 3 years 7 mos" on the mat once they had cut it; and now it is on to framing. Can't wait to see the finished piece!