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Metro explores the latest trends emerging on the West Coast of Canada.

Blue steel: Archaic tintype photography has renaissance in Vancouver

The process yields haunting but unpredictable results and appeals to a new generation of photographers turning to old school practices.

Vancouver photographer Ian Azariah and his Tin Type Trike at Third Beach.

Amy Logan/For Metro

Vancouver photographer Ian Azariah and his Tin Type Trike at Third Beach.

Light and shadow fall across a silvery, Ansel Adams-like landscape; a young, moustachioed man stares into the camera with disarming candour, evoking Civil War era portraits of soldiers.

Printed on metal plates, the photos look hundreds of years old, but were taken only recently. From workshops and Meetup groups, to a mobile studio, a traditional photographic technique is inspiring modern Vancouver practitioners.

Tintype photography is a wet-plate photography process; chemicals are applied to a thin sheet of metal, and the image is developed right then and there. The process itself, along with its haunting but unpredictable results, appeals to a new generation of photographers turning to old school practices to reveal something new.

Amy Logan:

Widely used during 1860s and 1870s, tintype photos were originally made in photographic studios, but later the process became more mobile as tintype studios were set up at fairs and on sidewalks.

A tintype photo by photographer Ian Azariah.

Courtesy Ian Azariah

A tintype photo by photographer Ian Azariah.

Long a city of photographic experimentation, Vancouver is home to a growing number of tintype aficionados. A local Meetup group dedicated to YVR wet plate collodion and large format photography, offers demonstrations and workshops.

Phillip Chin, a Canadian photographer specializing in portraiture, has turned to tintype photography for his latest show at the Shadbolt Centre as part of the Capture Photography Festival, which runs till May 9. Robert Kenney is another local photographer who uses tintype photography to create fine art pieces. And various tintype workshops have been held throughout the city.

Professional photographer Ian Azariah has perhaps the most fascinating tintype practice, a mobile studio called Tin Type Trike, mounted on a trike which he pedals around the city.

After learning the tintype process, Azariah said he "quickly became tired of working close to my darkroom and began working on a solution. After some research, I found no one had really done a modern, mobile darkroom set-up that was a brilliant design, and so after giving it some thought, I conceptualized, designed and built my tin type trike."

A tintype portrait by Ian Azariah.

Courtesy Ian Azariah

A tintype portrait by Ian Azariah.

Azariah's interest was sparked by photographer Ian Ruhter, who "started working with the process in very large format scale, making incredible work." What appeals to Azariah is that "it's the opposite of how we create images today. It's slow, not guaranteed, and creates a single, one-of-a-kind physical image that can't be reproduced."

He's had his trike at the East Side Flea, and can also be hired for private events and parties. Around Vancouver, the Tin Type Trike can be found by following him on instagtram (@tintypetrike). In about 15 minutes, he can create a personalized tintype.

Azariah sees a growing interest in old school photography "for the same reasons you still see people going out and purchasing records.

"Despite digital reproductions providing 'better quality' people still love the feeling that vinyl gives them, and I think it's the same emotional response that keeps people coming back to film and Polaroids, and in my case, tintype."

A tintype portrait by Ian Azariah.

Courtesy Ian Azariah

A tintype portrait by Ian Azariah.

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