A Photographer's Return to 19th-Century Tools and Life in a Cabin

By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

John Coffer, a tintype photographer, has spent the past 25 years living a Thoreauvian existence in a cabin in New York. His 19th-century technique of wet plate photography involves making a direct positive on a sheet of metal, which, Coffer says, "is very intentional, and you're not going to make very many in a day ... Each image is absolutely unique, like a painting." In this spirit, he does many things on his farm "the old 19th century way,' but he also uses some new technologies, like solar panels and a laptop. He predicts that more people will look to the past to find balance with modern life, and the serenity and natural beauty of his world are certainly an inspiration.

This beautifully shot documentary is one in a series of short films, This Must Be the Place, which explores the idea of home and the connection between people and their most personal spaces. David Usui and Ben Wu of Lost & Found Films talked about the making of the series in a short interview with the Atlantic Video channel. They have also produced short documentaries about Prime Burger, one of New York's oldest burger joints, and the Brooklyn-based multimedia artist Chong Gon Byun


Stills from the film

For more videos by David Usui and Ben Wu, visit http://lostfoundfilms.com/.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/archive/2012/02/a-photographers-return-to-19th-century-tools-and-life-in-a-cabin/252784/