In photographer Joni Sternbach's latest book,SurfLand,she used the labor intensive collodion wet-plate process to capture her subjects and their shoreline surroundings. The technique of collodion photography was developed way back in the 1850s and is better known as a tintype. Joni's choice of photographic technique was definitely not one of convenience because the chemicals involved in making a proper tintype must be coated, sensitized, exposed and developed all within 15 minutes. Why go through all of this hassle? Because the resulting photograph not only has a uniquely vintage appearance but will have captured its subject with microscopic detail.
Before flying out to visit my sister in San Francisco in November, the two of us brainstormed some activities that were more Alameda Flea-market and less Alcatraz. One idea was the possibility of getting our tintypes taken at Photobooth in the Mission . . . although it wasn't until we happened to walk by their Valencia Street location (post cocktails at The Latin American Club) that we decided to splurge and actually go for it. Their studio was just about to close but the awesome girls working that night invited us right in and even offered us a Pabst while the tintype camera was being set up. When it was time for my portrait I was told to look directly into the lens, keep a straight/somber face, and try not to blink when the massive goes off. We were then invited back into the little darkroom to watch our photographer process both tintypes.
It was surreal to watch as our haunting, sepia-toned faces started to appear through the chemicals. Seriously, if you ever have the chance to get your tintype taken, do it (especially if it's with the wondrous staff at Photobooth in SF)!
**I gave mine to Eric as a keepsake à la Ada and Inman in Cold Mountain. Yup, we love that sappy movie.