My father gave me a gift of some photographic antiques and amongst the lot were some 19th century tintypes. He had found these at local yard-sales in Pennsylvania. As I photographed them with my iPhone, I thought about how they had survived around 130 years and you could still still the peoples’ faces and enjoy them as heirlooms.
Can we say the same thing about our digital photography living on disks, computer hard drives, social media, and our phones? Will our grandchildren ever be able to view these or will they even know what a JPEG file is? The printed photograph is so important to a family’s history and only this and albums and similar work will be cherished as heirlooms in the future.
I started out as a digital photographer in 2006 because I felt digital was the newer option and it had to be better. I learned photography on film though and always struggled to make though digital photographs look like film. In 2011, I started to transition back to film. As 2014 arrives, I am proud to say that I am a film shooter and occasional digital dabbler. I strongly believe film is the better choice for archiving your important heirlooms, especially weddings. First of all, the quality of film which has a high-dynamic range means that you will see details in your lace or tulle wedding dress…it won’t be blown out white. Second of all, those film photographs are more likely to be printed and cherished and loved, not dying on a disk or hard-drive somewhere. Sometimes I do like to use digital, especially if I don’t want to use flash in a dark setting and want a color photograph. But for me, film is always the better choice.
Which leads me back to these tintypes photographed on my iPhone. Film photographers have a wonderfully amazing tool today that they didn’t have 10 years ago when I was starting out with digital. The professional labs can SCAN the film so that is more perfect than would have been possible 10 years ago. The film stocks have changed so that they can be scanned better and manipulated digitally. When my photographs are finished they are sent back to me over the internet in digital form. I can still provide a digital file to a client for social media and I can still edit out skin blemishes. But I still get back that lovely real negative in case those digital files are ever lost or destroyed! It is really the best of bost worlds for a film shooter in 2014 and I am happy to have returned to the world of analogue film.
The bottom photographs are of some real tintype photographs that I shot and some that were taken by me in Ireland on a workshop with Monochrome Meath.
If you are ever in Dublin, you can have your own tintype taken by The Analogue Studio in Dublin. And I can guarantee you, these photographs will be around a 130 years or more.