As a traveling photographer striving to keep alive the historic and handmade photographic processes, I have been really drawn to the Cartes de Visite. In the 19th Century, these photographic calling cards were wildly popular. They were traded as social calling cards and given as gifts and momentos. A short history: http://photographymuseum.org/histsw.htm
Now, in our modern age, when to even PRINT a photograph is rare… the argument seems to be: Why spend the energy and money printing and image when you can just post it on Facebook or Flickr or Email it around to friends? To me this is a small tragedy. There is something so special about the actual physicality of the photograph– To hold it in your hands or hang it on a wall or save it in an album is just so different than quickly clicking through endless images on a computer screen. So, I have endeavored to recreate the Carte de Visite in my own style.
One aspect of the Cartes de Visite that I really enjoy is the decorative detail. Usually the photo studio would have had a special imprint with the name of the studio and photographer. Often there would be decorative framing around the image, which would be printed in a variety of ways, usually a small tintype or albumen print were used. In my version of the Carte, I had a plate made and letterpressed the frame. Then I designed a stamp with the Tin Gypsy imprint. I printed each image individually using the salted paper process (c. 1833), which is a contact printing process using the sun as the light source for developing the image.
The Maiden Voyage of the Tin Gypsy was a wonderful adventure! Two weeks spent traveling through Oregon and Washington with the Gypsy... the beauty of the mountains, the majesty of coast, the excitement of the cities. It was all so fantastic- especially the people we met along the way. The wet-plate process is a tricky one, made even trickier when you add in all the new variables of living on the road-- unpredictable weather, lack of water sources and dirt, dirt and MORE dirt. There were some frustrating moments and more than a few plates that did not come out perfectly, but it was all part of the learning process... Now we know what to expect and can plan accordingly for the next Gypsy Voyage, which will be a cross-country adventure and will hopefully take place this spring! Here are a few of my favorites of the Maiden Voyage tintypes...
I was very fortunate to meet a few of Bellingham’s most interesting residents at the event and we even had some unexpected SUNSHINE! A really fantastic day, all-around. Many thanks to the wonderful Shelley and Muzzy, who hosted the event and lent us their beautiful garden for the day. Here are some of the PhotoBooth Tintypes!
Maker Faire is just around the corner and I thought that I would post a few of my new tintype creations that I have been playing with. The early tintypists of the 19th century valued presentation as an integral part of the craft of making tintypes. There are many beautiful embossed cases and decorative frames that housed tintypes of the period. In my ongoing quest to reinvent tintypes in my own unique style, while still honoring the long tradition of the craft, I have been experimenting with different styles of presentation… adding flocked paper and embossed leather to the backs of the tintypes, framing the plates with metallic detailing, and hanging the plates from velvet and linen ribbon. I am really pleased with the vintage, sort of French-inspired look that I am getting. It suits my tintypes well. I have also been binding small artist’s sketch books, using the tintypes as covers and the braided coptic stitch to bind. A very long and meticulous process, but worth it.
Very excited to be heading to the BUST Craftacular at Maker Faire in September. If you are in the city, stop by and check out the Tin Gypsy’s tintypes and unique creations. My favorite is a coptic bound artist’s sketch book, with tintype covers. Pretty sweet. More info about the event here: http://www.bust.com/craftacular/craftacular-home.html
We’ve been on the road with the Gypsy for over a week now and everything is going great! We have traveled out to the Kite Festival in Long Beach, to the eastern part of Washington where we found giant wind turbines and abandoned barns, to Seattle where we had a wonderful Photobooth event with the vibrant photo community there, and then up the coast to Anacortes where I made some beautiful plates at Deception Pass and now we have landed in Bellingham where we will be spending today searching for unique sites to make plates and tomorrow will be another great Photobooth event. Friday we are on to Astoria, where we will be hosted by Lightbox Gallery for our final Photobooth event of this maiden voyage. We’ve had some great times and have met so many wonderful new friends… This maiden voyage has been a rousing success!