In August of 2011 photographer Michael Shindler did something that to some might sound a little ludicrous. He had spent the last six years learning a cumbersome photographic process invented in the 1850s called Wet-Plate Collodion process that relies on metal plates to print photographs, and decided to use his unique skills to open the world’s only tintype portrait studio called Photobooth on Valencia Street in San Francisco. In an age when even the use of regular film has taken the backseat to an exponential explosion of megapixels, Shindler was going to go seriously old school, opening a kind of commercial portrait studio that hadn’t been seen since the 1930s. To get some perspective this is like a musician announcing that their next album was coming out exclusively on phonograph. Here’s some more information on the process:
The Wet-Plate Collodion process, first introduced in 1851, involves coating an enameled metal or glass plate with a collodion mixture, which is then sensitized, exposed and processed all within a few minutes and while the plate is still wet. The resulting image (while technically a negative) is made up of extremely fine silver particles that are creamy-white in color, which allows the image to be viewed as a positive when seen against a black background.
So what happened in the 12 months since? Nearly 3,500 people have stepped into Shindler’s studio to sit for one of his truly wonderful portraits.