The Appeal of Tintype Photography in a Digital Age

Harry Taylor describes the distinctive imperfections and limitations that attracted him to the 19th century technique. 

In American Tintype, professional photographer Harry Taylor describes the distinctive imperfections and limitations that drew him to the 19th century technique. With a bulky camera and complex chemistry, shooting and developing images becomes a slow, labor-intensive craft.

"The great thing about doing all these processes is you really get deeply involved with it," he explains. The images are inherently unlike modern photographs because of how long they take to expose. "Sometimes, you know, after a 20-second exposure, someone will go 'oh wow' -- there's just something different about holding still for a 10 to 20-second exposure ... you're reading the thoughts of someone ... there's more depth." Taylor's haunting tintypes and ambrotypes (see more on his website) capture contemporary faces in way that feels of another era, if not otherworldly.

Harry TaylorHarry Taylor

This short documentary by Matt Morris goes behind the scenes at Taylor's studio to watch the photographer at work. Morris has had two other short documentaries featured on the Atlantic Video channel: Mr. Happy Man, about a beloved local character in Bermuda, and Pickin' & Trimmin' about a barber shop bluegrass group in North Carolina. 

For more films by Matt Morris, visit http://www.mattmorrisfilms.com/.

Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.

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