PocketC.H.I.P. Goes Tintyping

Gus and PocketC.H.I.P. (also pictured: me, ruining a perfect photo) Photography by Patrick Demmons

I made a ridiculous claim the summer after our Kickstarter campaign.  I would not shave until we started shipping C.H.I.P.s.  Committed, my appearance slowly got out of hand.

Gus was also growing out his facial hair, in preparation for a grizzled drivers license photo.  We joked we both looked like Civil War veterans. After months of talking about it, we took a half day to take period photos in period costumes.  We also brought PocketC.H.I.P..

Our photographer, Patrick (www.revivaltintype.com/latest) was more than down to help. What began as a joke became an awesome exploration of craftsmanship and a photochemical science we take almost entirely for granted with the advent of digital photography.

Art in the Chemistry

Wetplate tintype photography is a complex photochemical process that is an art form in and of itself. It starts with an aluminum trophy engraving plate covered in a silver nitrate bath comprised of two different solutions: One controlling exposure or ‘film speed’, the other controlling contrast. When exposed to a (blindingly) bright light, the nitrate reacts and creates a negative etch on the metal.

Immediately after, it’s dipped into a development solution, which transforms the exposed area down to pure metallic silver and removes the excess particles from the plate. The result is a positive image of silver on black metal.

If that sounds complicated, it is. Tintype photography is very much a handmade process. Each image improved on the last, with Patrick subtly balancing the exposure and contrast solutions.

A few shots in, he yelled from the darkroom, “Get your camera ready, you’re gonna want to record this one!” So I did…

One thing I loved about Patrick’s style is he works within his medium to deliver something truly special. Because of his chemical concoction, the ‘film’ exposed more towards ultraviolet on the color spectrum. This means two things:

  1. Blues really pop, like my denim jacket or my beautiful blue eyes.
  2. The sun’s effect on your skin is more pronounced, allowing for an incredible skin texture imperceptible to the naked eye.

Look at the rich detail in Gus’ face!!! Photography credit: Patrick Demmons

Patrick clearly loves the process. He grabbed the above shot of Gus to snap a quick picture once it had developed. He had dialed in his mixture and was clearly proud of his work. It reminded me of the joy that comes from making something, an excellent feeling coming from an afternoon outside of the office.

Do I recommend tintyping? Hell yes! Seeing the process in person is awesome and the photos last for 180 years. There’s something special about a handmade item from a craftsman.

Now, apologies, but I must groom myself before PocketC.H.I.P.s ship in May. I’m going to trim my face. So is Gus and his wife Shelly couldn’t be happier.

Make sure to share your C.H.I.P. portraits — digital, film, or even tintype — with us on the forum and tweet us @nextthingco!

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