Tintypes have fascinated the public and served as keepsakes of time since their invention by Hamilton Smith in 1854. Back in its heyday, tintype photography offered an affordable way to create a memento for future generations. Many people would dress in Sunday best and attempt to hold poses for the time required in the process. As a present day artist and educator, Frank Hamrick came to appreciate the tintype process and its unique result. After a graduate student of his experimented unsuccessfully with the process in 2011, Hamrick began studying the tintype.
Hamrick has since mastered the process and even includes a demonstration in his History of Photography course at Louisiana Tech University. He will also include it in the graduate curriculum. Hamrick is building a body of 8 x 10 tintypes for a show in Fall 2014. He says using this timeworn process gives him a distinctive result in comparison to contemporary methods of photography. By involving his subjects with the details of the process, they also come to appreciate the charm of this lost art. Hamrick blocks out three hours for a shoot so he can explain the process, even encouraging the subjects to look through the view finder.
On first glance, the resulting photographs, such as Andy Shows, transport viewers back in time. There is the recognizable black and white grainy picture with visible imperfections, evoking a nostalgic feeling for days gone by. Then the details, such as modern day clothing and piercings, enter our visual fields, delighting us with a bridge to the present. Hamrick says “My goal as an artist is to balance soul and skill, to effectively communicate emotions worth disseminating.” Hamrick’s tintypes not only balance technique and creativity, but they successfully diffuse the emotions of the subjects, reaching the artist’s goal of balancing soul and skill. – Kathy Miller Stewart