Throwback Thursday: Wet Plate and Tintype Weddings

By // July 25, 2013 // Posted in Photography, Portrait, Wedding

When Sid Ceasar and Sara Prindiville were engaged, they knew they didn’t want ordinary mementos of their New Hampshire nuptials. As a photographer himself, Sid wanted to take the creative route (check out a proposal video he made for Sara using look-alike Muppets); as an artist familiar with the 19th-century albumen photo-processing techniques who frequently uses her 4 x 5 wooden pinhole camera, Sara was on board for something a little different, too. After doing a little digging, they found Yige Wang, a wet-plate photographer.

© Yige Wang

Wang uses an 1860’s 20 x 24 camera to make the Ceasars’ wet-plate portraits, which requires zero motion for the longer exposure—a closer look at the photo above will reveal the wooden rods used to prop up Sid’s posture and the edge of a crutch peaking behind Sara’s left shoulder to make standing still for 8- to 10- seconds a bit more doable. Wet-plate photography is known as one of the most inconvenient forms of photo processing; Wang needs a portable darkroom so that he can coat the plate with silver nitrate, place it in the camera holder, expose the plate, and develop the image before the silver nitrate can dry.

© Heather Curiel

San Francisco-based photographer Michael Schindler and wedding photographer Heather Curiel, based in Austin, Texas, have professed to catching the tintype bug. Though similar to wet plates, tintypes are ordinarily exposed on an iron plate rather than glass (which, back in the day, made this process much more affordable). Curiel offers tintype portraits in addition to her digital photography wedding portrait services, while Schindler has a storefront studio where he welcomes anyone walking by to stop in for a tintype. Unless he makes a mistake, Schindler takes only one portrait of each person to take home with them about 15 minutes after it’s taken (Schindler shows and tells more about his tintype photography process in a Cool Hunting video). Both wet plates and tintypes are direct-positive images, meaning there aren’t any negatives, nor any copies of the same photograph.

© Michael Schindler

© Michael Schindler

An online search for tintype and wet-plate photography a decade ago would have turned up pages of Civil War-era photographs; today, more and more photographers are beginning to pick up their glass plates, silver nitrate solutions and collodion photographic emulsion to revisit the handmade processes of the past.

If you missed the April 2013 issue, check out Rangefinder‘s article about the invigoration of older photography processes in wedding photography.

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Libby Peterson

Libby Peterson

Libby Peterson is the Features Editor of Rangefinder. A Minneapolis native, she moved to New York after graduating from Indiana University’s School of Journalism in 2013, starting off as the magazine's editorial intern.

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  2. It was a neat thing to learn about I haven’t heard of wet-plate or tintype photography.
    It a good thing to be open to all these different types of photography to give me a open mind on whats out there.

  3. The look of these wet-plate and tintypes are so artistic. The people in them can really never smile because that makes it harder to hold still I bet. Love the portraits of Michael Schindler and Heather Curiel.

  4. The look of these wet-plate and tintypes is so artistic. The people in them can really never smile because that makes it harder to hold still I bet. Love the portraits of Michael Schindler and Heather Curiel.