Noticing Tintype

With 53% of consumers pounding the pavements, freeways, and malls looking for a good – no, make that greatBlack Friday sale, it’s going to be a busy, busy, busy day.

Who knows, I may end up running out to a store yet today as well, but in the meantime this brief but beautiful three-minute film on tintype photography seemed the perfect counterpoint to the frenetic pace of the day.

Tintype photography involves making a direct positive (as opposed to a negative) imagine on a piece of metal (usually not tin, interestingly enough) that was then deepened and darkened by applying lacquer, paint or enamel. Because these photos could be ready a few minutes after taking them, they became quite popular in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, particular at fairs and carnivals.

Over time they gave way to film, just as film eventually gave way to digital photography. But as filmmaker Matt Morris tells the story, there’s something charming about the time it takes to make a tintype picture. Actually, it’s more than charming, it’s something that is beautiful because it is so intentional and deliberate. Creativity in general, and certainly mastering any craft, demands that kind of time. Moreover, as photographer Harry Taylor explains, when you have someone pose for twenty seconds – the time it takes to capture the positive – you see much more fully into who they really are. Into, if you will, their soul.

I sometimes wonder if we’ve lost the patience for that kind of noticing and knowing in our 24/7, instant-access, digital world. Which makes me even more grateful, on a day like today, to be reminded of the power of slowing down, of noticing, of taking the time to really come to know something – like the craft of tintype photography – or a person – like the children, family, and friends with whom we gather at occasions like Thanksgiving but sometimes fail to notice deeply and truly.

Enjoy this holiday weekend. In addition to getting all the things you hope and need to get done, I also hope you have a moment to relax, to slow down, to notice, and to know.

American Tintype from Matt Morris Films on Vimeo.

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