Back in the day, today: Tintype photos

Katie Kowalski | arts@ptleader.com
Posted 3/27/18

In a grassy patch of green bordered by the historic City Hall on one side and the more modern American Legion Hall on the other, two white canvas tents were set up over the weekend. One tent enclosed …

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Back in the day, today: Tintype photos

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In a grassy patch of green bordered by the historic City Hall on one side and the more modern American Legion Hall on the other, two white canvas tents were set up over the weekend. One tent enclosed a Victorian-inspired sitting room with a Persian rug, brocade curtains and a maroon velvet chair that every now and then supported a well-dressed lady or gentleman.

The other tent bustled with a small group of people clad in late 1890s attire, chatting with passers-by, fidgeting with a wooden camera atop a tripod, and running to the tent opposite to help the men and women there strike their best, most formal pose.

When everything was ready, photographer Jason Bledsoe would appear from an enclosed portable darkroom with a wet tin plate that he’d place in the camera.

The tintype booth was part of the Victorian Heritage Festival, which took place March 24-25 in downtown Port Townsend.

For each photo, a plate is coated with salted collodion and then immersed in a bath of silver nitrate. The sensitized plate goes into the camera wet, and must be exposed, developed and fixed before the plate dries out.

Bledsoe, who has always had a passion for the process of historical big-camera photography, aims to keep the process as true to the original as possible for an authentic mid- to late-1800s experience and product.

“I make everything from scratch, starting with the japanning of tin for the plates,” he said. “I mix all my own chemistry and have recently begun making traditional leather-bound cases to house those images. This gives me total control.”

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