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Wet plate workshop in New York

Just off Madison Avenue and in the heart of Manhattan, the Penumbra building is a nest of photography. I was lucky enough to be invited by the Exec Director, Geoffrey Berliner, to explore the warren of rooms in the basement, filled to the brim with cameras which they still use - huge formats, brass lenses, cameras for taking carte de vistes, stereo photographs and even tiny gem tintypes. I think I might just hide in there and see if they notice I'm living there - Dress myself like a camera and stand still.

So over the two days we began to understand and experiment with tintypes and ambrotypes - Time-traveling with chemistry. Being in the darkroom again was a bit like coming home, all those weird and toxic smells... lovely.

Tintypes are basically positive photographs on aluminium, with one side blackened and the collodion added wet. It must be wet when it’s exposed and developed to work, so you have a short window of which to have your fun.

We were taught by tintype photographer Lisa Elmaleh, who is a living legend of a human, do take a look at her work. Shes done a fantastic series about the Everglades which is totally worth a look over a brew.

Oh, we were also taught by Bob, my duck, but to be fair his contribution was rather lacking.

Lisa Elmaleh's work in the everglades.

To finally understand the process in depth was so satisfying. Especially after spending all that time talking to Andrew Daneman in Copenhagen and rummaging through his collection of Tintypes. Now I can understand what cause the imperfections and anomalies on the images I collect, and then in turn, understanding the photographer themselves a little more.

Lisa at work with Bob. Bob needs to totally stop grabbing the limelight. Calm down Bob, we get it. Photo by Kaitlyn Danielson

It also allowed me to begin to understand what work I want to create myself. Its important that I allow this to happen organically, I don’t want to force or over think it. In the studio what felt most natural and what I want to pursue more is a spontaneous playfulness which then echoes aspects of old imagery. In this case I explored religious iconography and victorian specimen photography but with a Dawn twist.

Here are the results!

I totally want to see if I can continue creating tintypes when I’m back in the UK. Ohhhhh it would be a dream!

I’ve met a series of extraordinary photographers and collectors at the Penumbra Foundation. Heres a list of a few of them who are particularly worth a gander.

Felli at work.

On Instagram head to:

GeoffreyBerliner - Exec Director of the foundation and mind-blowing photographer.

JoleneLupo - I totally love her recent ectoplasm work.

Mollsmachine - Wonderfully experimental photographer and artist.

Photofelli - Artist and photographer.

KaitlynDanielson - She uses all sorts of early photographic techniques in her work.

And the walk home it was rain rain everywhere. Bob was loving it. Silly Bob.

Ps, yes, in case you're unsure, I did bring a full sized mallard with me on my trip. It was a rash decision but one I need to live with.

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