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Thread: Old tin types

  1. #1
    suejulene's Avatar
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    Old tin types

    My mother recently gave me about 50 tin type photos from our family. What does anyone know about tin types and care of them? Would they originally have been so sepia/brown colored? What is the difference in process between deguerrotype and tin type?

    Thank you.
    SueJulene

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    rjs003's Avatar
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    Don't know a lot about tin types, but I do have a few of my grandparents and yes they have a natural sepia color. I'm guessing that the tin types are at least one hundred years old and I remember them always being sepia colored ( I'm sixty years old) even when I was a kid. These tin type were not kept where sun light could shine on them, so maybe that might be a concern any way enjoy the photos.

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    MenacingTourist's Avatar
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    Welcome to APUG.
    Personally I would love to see some of these images. I'm a big fan of the look and feel of all old photography. I'd like to shoot like that but Jim Galli is hording all the old lenses and most of the cameras

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    DKT
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    try this link, it's to an online tutorial called Preservation 101. this is the part about the various photo processes and some tips on care & handling:

    http://www.nedcc.org/p101cs/lesson7.htm

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    Quote Originally Posted by MenacingTourist
    Welcome to APUG.
    Personally I would love to see some of these images. I'm a big fan of the look and feel of all old photography. I'd like to shoot like that but Jim Galli is hording all the old lenses and most of the cameras
    Lotsa old lenses on eBay, if you think that old lenses make the difference. I'm not sure how old light-tight boxes differ from newer ones.

    More seriously, I think James has a lens mine. Goes in with an empty mule-drawn tram and a pick and a shovel, emerges with the mule straining to pull the tram filled with dusty old lenses.

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    smieglitz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by suejulene
    My mother recently gave me about 50 tin type photos from our family. What does anyone know about tin types and care of them? Would they originally have been so sepia/brown colored? What is the difference in process between deguerrotype and tin type?

    Thank you.
    SueJulene
    Tintypes naturally have what is referred to as a "coffee and cream" appearance.

    Tintypes (also called ferrotypes or melainotypes) are derived from a wet collodion process as are ambrotypes and the original wetplate negatives on glass used for albumen printing. These processes were popular from about 1851 until the 1880s when dryplates really came on the scene. The difference in these wetplate processes is the substrate the collodion is poured onto, a thin jappaned iron plate in the case of tintypes or a sheet of glass for ambrotype positives and wetplate negatives.

    The emulsion, which is poured onto the plate by hand, consists of iodized collodion (gun cotton dissolved in ether and grain alcohol with either/both cadmium-, potassium-, and/or ammonium iodide added to the viscous mix). The plate is then sensitized by submersion for several minutes is a bath of silver nitrate under safelight/nonactinic conditions. The wetplate is then loaded in the special holder, transferred to and quickly exposed in the readied camera, then taken back in the darkroom for immediate processing in a ferrous sulphate or pyro developer. The plate is then rinsed and fixed, washed and then varnished. All this (except the varnish) has to be completed before all the ether and alcohol evaporates which leaves the plate dry and impervious to the chemical effects.

    A daguerreotype on the other hand is essentially a photograph produced on a silver-coated polished plate, i.e., a mirror surface. The chemistry involved is different involving I believe, various bromine and iodine salts as well as development in mercury fumes. Perhaps a daguerreotypists can chime in here with a better explanation of that process.

    Daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and tintypes are all unique positives which have the image reversed as in a mirror. You can tell them apart since the daguerreotype generally will appear as a ghostly negative until something dark is reflected in the mirror surface which causes the white powdery negative image to suddenly appear reversed. This is the reason you'll find dark velvet incorporated on the adjacent leaf of a cased daguerreotype. OTOH, ambrotypes and tintypes are really severely underexposed negatives which owe their apparent reversal to the black background upon which they reside . Without the underlying black surface, an ambrotype image appears like a thin glass negative. Tintypes, being on iron plates, are magnetic as well. Modern wetplate photographers are beginning to use thin, black-anodized aluminum sheets as a substitute substrate for the traditional jappaned iron sheets. (I propose calling them "alumelainotypes" which is a tongue twister but descriptive.) These look like tintypes on the obverse but eliminate the messy japanning step of traditional tintypes.

    Joe

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    sionnac's Avatar
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    There's a book called "Looking at Photographs - A Guide to Technical Terms" by Gordon Baldwin that has a section on tintypes and their appearance. Some emulsions were more black than sepia, but they are often deep brown in color with white/cream details.
    Your local historical society might have a resident conservationist who can help you with care/restoration; also, "A Guide to the Preventive Conservation of Photograph Collections" by Bertrand Lavedrine et al. has great professional guidelines for caring for older collections.

  8. #8
    DKT
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    they have a lower tonality--they won't have a "white" detail really. It's more of a mid to low gray level. You can copy a tintype onto ortho film rather well, actually--toss a grayscale in there, and pump up the development to increase the contrast. You can then turn around and print it onto modern paper and get a full scale image actually--one that is deceiving. It will look more like a b/w print than a tintype, because you've expanded the tones.

    They can also be deceiving in that, tintypes were often handcolored, as were ambrotypes. If they're housed in a case, they can sometimes look from a distance like an ambrotype. The daguerrotype looks less like these other two--it's hard to mistake that, since it will only look like a positive from a narrow angle, otherwise it's like a mirror. The only way to really copy a daguerrotype is to shoot it on a view camera and use a combination of movements and black cards to control the lighting and reflections. The union cases present their own challenge as well, since they were made of wood, leather, velvet, glass and had some ornate frames. But, you can copy an ambrotype in much the same way, only by shooting it head on through a black card...the daguerrotype needs to be shot an angle, with the card cutting the reflection, and the front & rear movements correcting the perspective...

    I've had to copy all three types quite frequently for the museum I work for...when it comes to caring for them, well, that would depend on what shape they're in now. A conservator or maybe an archivist could give you some tips about this--if you have a history museum, archive, geneological society etc in your area--check with them. Most public institutions will offer advice to their patrons as a service. If you have access to such a place, take them up on it.

    good luck & hopes this helps

    my opinions only as always/not my employers.

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    DKT
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    some quickie links for a few examples of cased images. the scans aren't the greatest in the world, but anyways....

    ambrotypes--this first one, you can see some deterioration here:

    http://ncmuseumofhistory.org/moh/full/19XX_319_16A.jpg

    this scan is light for some reason--I have a great cibachrome of this actually, but it's a tinted ambrotype in reasonably good shape:

    http://ncmuseumofhistory.org/moh/full/1987_3_1A.jpg

    tintype--or ferrotype if you want to get technical--this one is hand colored as well, and sports a union case. it looks rough, but believe it or not it was conserved, and looks much better than it did before. For some bonehead reason, the database lists this as an ambrotype, but this is an error. When it was displayed it was properly ID'd, so go figure.

    http://ncmuseumofhistory.org/moh/full/1918_10_1A.jpg

    last, is the daguerrotype--this was conserved as well, if I recall:

    http://ncmuseumofhistory.org/moh/full/19XX_319_15A.jpg


    fwiw--these are all ours, and they were on display until recently in a civil war exhibit that has since closed. the database--there are images that haven't come out of the photo dept-- whole thing is managed by another section, with very little input from the photography staff. So--if the scans look bad, or there are some quality issues--doesn't reflect the photo dept., okay? I just don't have the time to dig out other CTs from our files and scan them. It's easy for me to link to this stuff.

    that said: *my opinions only/not my employers*.



 

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