Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I apologize to my dedicated followers for it has been much, much too long since my last post. And I promised myself when I began this blog that I would write at least two entries per month. Well my post before this one was nearly two months ago--bad Tom, bad blog writer. My excuse is: I was distracted by politics. Those of you who know me, know that I have a passion for politics and that I get distracted by it. I volunteered way to many hours on getting California democrats elected and proposition 23 defeated. Numbers wise my efforts did not make much difference, but it felt good, even though I was sacrificing precious photographic time, to be a part of the effort that smashed the right wing wave at California's border. I can't imagine upsetting to many of you with this post for I'm sure few of you reading this post are politically minded or are Republicans. Which reminds me that in a future post, when I stray from photography once again, I would like to write why is conservatives suck at art.
But this blog is about my photographic process and not politics, so let's proceed. The last assignment in Brian's alternative photography class at Long Beach City College was to make a tintype photograph. Once again I would be going outside my box of comfort. I do not know if it's the same for other artists, but for me to try something new I sort of have to be pushed into doing it. It's why I suppose I enrolled in Brian's class. I purchased the Tintype kit from Rockland colloid Corporation. The kit included the metal plates, the liquid emulsion, which contains Silver, the tintype developer and a standard Kodak film fixer. I found the trickiest part of this process was spreading the emulsion on the metal plates. There is no need for me to go into the technique, because like everything else you can find it on-line. I will, however, write that spreading the emulsion on the metal plates is an incredibly messy process that is done under safelights and requires many unsuccessful attempts before acquiring the knack of spreading an even coat of emulsion onto the metal plate. Once spread on it takes, depending on weather conditions, about a day for the emulsion to set and dry. Patience, an attribute I am still short on, is key.
It's possible to make a digital negative than make a contact print onto the emulsion. Everyone in the class did that exept me. What would be the point of going through the trouble of creating an archaic photograph using a digitally manipulated negative? I did some test images to ascertain, or at least within the ballpark, what the ISO of the emulsion was. The tech people at Rockland told me it changes from batch to batch. And I'm sure the ISO of emulsion varies depending on how thick it is spread on the metal. With that I can tell you it's very slow, perhaps ASA 5.
Because of my political distraction I was late getting prepared for the assignment, so I was unable to test and practice with tintypes as much as I would like. I shot the 4x5 tintypes in my Super Graphic 4x5 camera. And I am quite sure the shutter speed on the 135 mm Super Graphic lens is way off ( I need to get the lens cleaned and tuned), so my exposures were a bit of, or should I say a lot of, an educated guess.
Yet, more challenging than the tintype process was conceiving a subject matter that I thought was appropriate for the medium. As always with these things it didn't come easy. After much brain strain the idea finally came. My neighbors nephew, who comes by quite a bit to go on bike touring rides with his uncle and aunt passed by, and as soon as I saw him the light inside my thick skull turned on and I knew Jonathan would be perfect for this project. I normally see him with his two brothers. All three are good looking lads, but Jonathan is uniquely handsome. I can't say for sure where the idea to photograph him came from. More than likely it is an amalgam of all the images I've seen since I became interested in photography. I can't even say which photographs were influential in my thoughts. However, I'm imagine I was influenced by the portraits of Irving Penn and Walker Evan. Yet I am certain some of the inspiration was drawn from my days as a model. I could easily imagine Giorgio Armani selecting Jonathan chiseled face for his fall/winter 2011 men's line. Whatever the inspiration I knew Jonathan's face would work for this process, and as you can see for yourself it did. His expression is that, not of an old soul, but certainly of one that has endured hardship. Except for the haircut, the image is timeless. The streak on the left side of Jonathan's face is from my uneven emulsion application. The scratches on his right side are from the removal and replacement of the dark-slide. These mishaps accidentally work and compose the photograph perfectly. Unfortunately the original tintype is too dark. Of all my emulsions this is one that came out the lightest, and it is even underexposed. And a day after the image was fixed with each passing minute it appears to fade and become darker. If I am to continue this process I must find out, if possible, how to prevent the image from completely fading. Nevertheless I sense I am on to something, and I am considering taking this process to a higher degree. I promise to keep you posted. Cheers for now.