Whenever I speak to a client on the phone the story of how I came to create digital tintypes inevitably comes up. I started restoring photographs over 15 years ago. Taking tattered and torn old turn of the century photographs of family members and creating new restored silver gelatin negative and prints. These images I receive from clients are to them priceless. They are often the only window into the past life of our shared families. Being able to take the only photograph of a family member and breathing new life into the photograph through restoration is a gift to the recipient. For the client, it has often been an emotional experience and one that is personally rewarding. It is as if I am able to give them back a memory that had been long forgotten, and that missing piece is a treasure to get back!
Along the way in this process of restoration I started to receive old tintypes that clients wanted me to recreate and reproduce as silver gelatin prints. Why silver gelatin prints? I wanted to not only bring back the image in the original photograph, but also give longevity to the recreation. While digital photography is a beautiful and expressive medium and tool for communication, digital prints in my experience have a very short life span. Thus, I painstakingly print silver gelatin photographs from negatives in a traditional wet darkroom process. For color photographs, I hand paint over sepia toned prints in the same mineral oil style made popular long before the first color film or prints made by Kodak.
In this method of restoration, I am able to give the client a newly restored photograph printed to the same type of silver gelatin papers as the original.
This really planted the seed for wanting to recreate not only original silver gelatin photographs but also recreate tintypes of modern images for people who wanted an alternative to the temporary digital print. For me, it is all about preserving your historical timeline through photographs. Creating tintypes from old photographs and digital images allows for this timeline to be guaranteed not to fade away with the passing of time.
You can see where this whole thing started, with before and after photographs of restored images and video of how I paint photographs to restore color. Just click on the link to view the restoration page of my personal website, http://www.jenjansenphoto.com/restorations.html
A 4"x5" tintype made from an original 1.5"x2" tintype