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Preserving the Past, Capturing the Present: The Journey of Three Traveling Tintype Photographers



Tintype photographers on the road are a distinct and compelling species of artists. They offer a touch of yesteryear and the allure of another era to towns all over the world. They are experts in the tintype photography method, which is often referred to as wet plate collodion photography and involves the creation of photographs on metal plates. In recent years, there has been a rebirth of interest in this historically significant kind of photography, and these photographers are leading the way in promoting and maintaining this art form.

Tintyping is a laborious and finicky procedure that calls for a portable darkroom in addition to a wide range of specialized cameras, chemicals, and other pieces of gear. Tintype photographers that travel from location to location often bring all of these things with them. They set up their darkroom in a variety of settings and offer their services to individuals, families, and communities. They provide visitors a look into the past and a concrete connection to a time long gone through the use of their portable studios, which they use to convey the enchantment of tintype photography to modern audiences.

Tintype portraits are genuinely one-of-a-kind works of art because they have a distinct visual style that distinguishes them from other types of photography. Tintype photographers traveled from place to place to capture their subjects. The majority of their photographs have a high contrast and a deep, rich tonal range, which gives the impression that the photographs were taken decades ago. The work of these traveling tintype photographers is something that should not be missed, whether you’re a photography enthusiast or you’re just searching for a one-of-a-kind and significant portrait.

When Justin Borucki, a music photographer with 20 years of experience, signed up for a high-class photography class to fulfill a curriculum requirement, little did he know that it would be the start of his now thriving career. Photography quickly captured Borucki’s heart and imagination, and he soon realized that the best way to find fulfillment was to combine his love for photography with his love for music. Borucki spent the next two decades capturing all kinds of music, from local bands in basements to sold-out arena shows. However, after 20 years, Borucki found himself yearning for a new challenge, something that would bring him back to his roots as a young photographer. Borucki discovered the process of wet plate photography when he picked up a book called Chemical Pictures by Quinn Jacobson. “As soon as I developed my first plate, it was like a fire was reignited in my soul,” Borucki said. “I had traveled back in time and was suddenly my teenage self, standing in my high-school darkroom.” Borucki was immediately drawn to wet plate photography and started dragging his large format camera and self-constructed wooden darkroom through the streets of NYC, creating handmade images in the city. “Each plate, he says, tells its own story and reveals an undeniable history and unique texture. This process is so wonderfully beautiful and poetic to me. I take great pride in what I’ve been able to create in this short amount of time. From the equipment I’ve built to the images that have developed on my plates, I know I’m creating a space for myself and my art in the long history of this craft… And I’m looking forward to sharing what I’ve discovered with the world.” 

Snoop Dog Tintype, Justin Borucki

Today, he runs NYC Tintype, a pop-up studio that travels the New York, New Jersey, and Philly areas, offering private sessions for a more intimate tintype experience. He loves the interactive nature of making tintype portraits, seeing people see their image appear right in front of them, and the idea that each tintype has its own soul and energy from where it was created.

The tintype process has many challenges for shooting in the field, and over the years, he has devised a system that works well and consistently. He uses two Profoto 7b packs paired with magnum reflectors to achieve good exposures with his lens, even when dealing with ever-changing cloud cover and the sensitivity of the collodion process to UV light.

Alice Cooper Tintype, Justin Borucki

John Coffer, who has been working in this medium for more than three decades, takes his mobile darkroom with him on his travels across the United States and sets it up in a variety of different places. John Coffer is a true expert in his field, and he creates works of art that are not only stunning but also timeless by employing time-honored photographic processes. His pictures frequently have a hazy, surreal look, with an emphasis on the subject’s eyes and expression rather than the background or surroundings. This results in a feeling of closeness and connection between the viewer and the subject, which is what gives his portraits their genuinely exceptional and one-of-a-kind quality. John’s enthusiasm for the tintype technique and his dedication to upholding the historical norms associated with it are two of the characteristics that set him apart from other photographers. He is a self-taught photographer who has devoted his life to mastering his skill and sharing his expertise with others. He has spent his life to perfecting his craft. John is a well-known figure in the world of tintype photography, and in addition to his work as a nomadic photographer specializing in the medium, he also conducts seminars and lectures on the subject. Through his work, he is contributing to the preservation of this time-honored art form and ensuring that it continues to attract new generations of lovers and photographers.

John’s portraits have garnered a lot of attention and praise from people all around the world, and he has won a lot of accolades and honors for his work. In addition to that, his work has been showcased in a variety of exhibitions and magazines, some of which include American Photo, The New York Times, and National Geographic. Many people hold John’s portraits in the highest regard, and he is helping to spread knowledge of the aesthetic value and cultural relevance of tintype photography thanks to his work.

John Coffer is a wonderful option for those individuals who are looking for a portrait that is both completely original and significant. Not only are his images stunning and enduring, but they also provide a window into a bygone era and a link to the extensive history of photography. He was one of the pioneers in the field. If you ever find yourself in the fortunate position of being able to sit for a tintype picture with John or to view his work in person, know that it is an experience that will truly be one that you will never forget.

Ultimately, modern itinerant tintype photographers are preserving a historical art form while also giving their subjects special, individualized opportunities. They are producing unique photographs that capture the essence of a particular time and place by sticking to the wet plate collodion process. These creative thinkers are doing more than just protecting photography’s heritage; they’re also expanding the medium’s reach by testing out novel applications. They are bridging the gap between the past and the present by making fresh memories for future generations using current tools and equipment in the same way that tintype photographers have done for centuries. The mobile tintype photographers are expanding the boundaries of photography in fascinating ways, whether through posing models for portraits in temporary studios or capturing spontaneous scenes in the streets.