Our visit to an Ambrotypist


The ambrotype (from Ancient Greek: ἀμβροτός — “immortal”, and τύπος — “impression”) or amphitype, also known as a collodion positive in the UK, is a positive photograph on glass made by a variant of the wet plate collodion process.

The tintype process involves obtaining suitable metal plates, cleaning and preparing their surface, spraying the plates with black spray paint and then coating them with light-sensitive emulsion and subsequently exposing the plate and developing it in special chemistry.

On our trip last summer to Gettysburg, PA was an exciting trip, but one was one event we didn’t get to do. I wanted to get Jack’s image captured using a photography process that I can tintype. On our return trip on I discovered the Instagram account of Blake Wylie and watched his presentation in the world’s largest darkroom.

It was later that I found out Blake lives in Franklin, TN and I contacted him to schedule a time to get an image of Jack. My goal was to get the image with Jack wearing his great grandfather’s hat. Jack is named after him and how fitting it would be to capture a timeless image showcasing Jack wearing that hat (as well as buttoning his shirt to his neck…something that was often done by my grandfather).

This month we had the pleasure of driving up to Franklin, meeting Blake and having a great time making this image.

Jack wearing his great grandfather’s hat. The image was taken as a tintype image.
This image should last for over 100 years.

Blake Wylie uses a camera that is over 110 years old and with bright strobes, he reduces the exposure time, that in years past might take seconds to a minute asking your subject to not move which would blur the images, to a 60th of a second.

After Blake got Jack in the position he looks through the ground glass in back of the camera to check composition and focus.

This isn’t as easy as you would think as the image in the camera is upside down and very dim.

Once everything is set then you bring in the wet plate which is put inside the camera and the plate is then exposed to make the positive image on the metal plate.

This puts the image on the metal plate but it must still be developed while wet. This involves taking the image and dipping in the correct developer and then washed to stop the developer from continuing to change the plate.

Blake Wylie with Jack. Jack is holding the 5×7 plate
Watch the video to see the image develop in the chemical bath and then the wash.
By randypollock



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