Portrait & Headshot Photographer • Plymouth, New Hampshire

Welcome to the Vault: a Peek at the New Tintype Studio Room

My studio is growing again! For the past two months, I’ve been learning wet plate collodion (tintype) photography from Gary Samson in his Manchester, NH studio.  You can read more about that here: https://maundymitchell.com/a-random-act-of-kindness/

A tintype, also called a ferrotype, is a photograph made by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of black-enameled metal, which has been coated with chemicals to sensitize it to light immediately before exposure.  Tintypes were invented in 1851 and used widely until about 1870 when other, easier, forms of photography became more popular.

One of the things I like the most about tintypes is that they are handmade and one of a kind. When you see a tintype of of someone, you know that this actual tintype was present in the room when this person was photographed. They may have even watched their image appear in the developing process. In the early days, this was often the first photograph they had seen of themselves.

Tintype portraits of Gary Samson by Maundy Mitchell
Tintype portraits I made of Gary Samson in his studio, on the drying rack

After the very first day of learning how to do this, I knew this was something I wanted to do more. I decided to set up my own tintype studio by renting another room in my building.

I’ve been in my current studio for five years, and I seem to add a room each year!  (You can take a video tour here: https://maundymitchell.com/the-portrait-experience/). In addition to the main shooting space, styling room, work room, client lounge, and dressing room, I have a new tintype studio.  I’ve been spending time renovating this room, fixing holes in the walls, painting, and replacing the flooring.  

One of the most interesting things about the new room is that my darkroom will be in an old bank vault!  I love this building, which was a bank from the early- to mid-1900s.  I’m working on the darkroom vault, building shelving and countertops, installing safelights, and gathering all of the tools I need to process these photos – everything from chemicals to trays and tanks.

In the meantime, I was able to acquire a special camera and lens for making tintypes.  This is a Deardorff camera, which I got from restorer Tom Lazaroff, of Photolaz Wood and Brass, in Ohio.  He got the camera in Chicago, where it was used to make many of the photos in the old Sears & Roebuck catalogs for many years.  Research leads me to believe it was made in the 1920s.  

The lens is also special – it’s a Dallmeyer brass portrait lens, made in London around 1897. It should make beautifully soft portraits, and I can’t wait to use it.

I expect to be set up and working in this room in the next couple of weeks. This winter, I’ll practice a lot in order to perfect my technique, and I hope to incorporate tintypes into my portrait work soon. There is still work to do, but here’s a peek!  

Maundy Mitchell Photography studio door, welcome mat, and antique tintype camera
Deardorff camera at Maundy Mitchell Photography's new tintype studio room, with bank vault darkroom in the background.