Discussion Topic: The Civil War Tintype and Modern Soldiers

Ed Drew, Lieutenant Co-Pilot, 2013

Ed Drew, Lieutenant Co-Pilot, tintype, 2013

Frederick Scott Archer’s wet-plate collodion process dominated photographic production in the mid-19th century.  There were three options with the wet-plate process, you could produce a glass negative or an ambrotype (a glass negative with dark backing) or a tintype (also known as a ferrotype). A glass negative allowed one to pull numerous paper copies and this was the method practiced by Civil War photographers such as Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner. As noted in class, many itinerant photographers produced tintypes during the Civil War, preserving portraits of soldiers for loved ones, and now as historical documents.

San Francisco-area National Guard reservist Ed Drew has revived the tintype, perhaps the most popular wet plate process of the 19th century. While deployed as a helicopter aerial gunner in Afghanistan in  Spring 2013, Drew took tintypes of his fellow soldiers. These were the first tintypes produced in a combat zone since the Civil War. Watch a short CBS news segment on Drew’s photographs and look through the slideshow of his work. What do you think of the revival of this old process to document modern warfare?

Watch the CBS newsclip here

See a slideshow of Ed Drew’s work here

The DUE DATE to submit your blog posts for this topic is Sunday, October 20th.

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8 Responses to Discussion Topic: The Civil War Tintype and Modern Soldiers

  1. diego says:

    i think with the revival of this tintype photos it brings out the solider more. i feel that what he did was remake the past, when you take a picture in color it shows everything and doesnt have anything unless you focus on it. in black n white it shows the soul of a person. back then it was great having different them dressed and posed for the camera to show how it went down. i think today it is the same but more modern, I’m glad he brought back old processing to this modern warfare.

  2. Verna Fogg says:

    The tintype process gives a feel of struggle and strive, especially for the use in war photography. You would not want to show a photograph of clear blue skies and green fresh cut grass with a solider in his uniform smiling….in my opinion, the wet plate process and using the tintype will be my first choices. You can appreciate the history in the photos of these soldiers who put there lives in for the country they live in. This age-old method is a winner in my eyes. I have a tintype app that was just introduced to IOS 7 by a designer who use to work with a tintype photographer.

  3. Rubi Dhakal says:

    I think reviving the tintype for photography was a great idea. This process gives the photograph the effect of an old historic picture. The tintype allowed more than one copy of the photograph with made the public happy. Especially all the soldiers’ families. This allowed the photograph to be used as a visual sense of joy for the families while somebody in their family was out at war. The tintype produced a picture where it looks like it was documented as a part of history . The picture shows a rough lifestyle out at war and it shows how the soldiers are out there fighting for their country.It has a very strong patriotic feeling. When a person sees a regular picture with color they might not notice everything. They might see the background and not at the expression on the soldier’s face. A black and white picture really brings out the expression of the one who is being photographed.

  4. Sixto Vaquero says:

    Reviving the tintype process I believe brings out a soldier as its own person, just taking a look into these soldiers equipment, clothing and their pose in these photography really just brings out more than just a person in a uniform but to me these pictures can really bring out as pride in a picture. I believe the concept of the tintype being whole black and white is more of being a person being a part of history, an individual serving for their country, it can really show as it being a part of our era today but being unique through the tintype process where it can really have change the way a person can see a person then just being a colored picture where the viewer might not catch interest being a part of today’s ordinary picture. At tintype photograph really brings out the person. Seeing the eyes through a solider.

  5. Anna says:

    The revival of this old process to document modern warfare; I think it’s genius, what better way to get an insight look based on the hardships and battlefields these soldiers faced, than Ed Drew capturing these moments live, through the tintype process; the tintype process gives a picture that modern day feel, black & white, realistic events that were taking place, original. You can see the compassion, the fear, the sorrow that each soldier went through. Although this process wasn’t the easiest challenge for Drew, he originally documented these photographs for his son, therefore he can understand his father though the very important people in his life and can later somewhat determine what kind of man his father was.

  6. Kevin Roldan says:

    I find it interesting to see someone take the time and dedication to take photographs in this historic manner. The reason people wouldn’t use this method anymore was because it was a lengthy and slow process, something that could not go well with the fast paced actions of war. The photographs depict the soldiers in a manner that a conventional camera cannot do. I was impressed by the photograph of his squadron standing in front of the helicopter with the sand blowing around because it captured the atmosphere of the dry country. The portraits of the military men are also amazing since they do strike a resemblance to those taken during the civil war, and remind us that the only difference between them is the period that they live in. Drew’s photographs are proof of his admiration of photography as well as his squadron.

  7. Mahamuda says:

    I think the revival of this old process to document modern warfare is a brilliant idea to bring the solder’s soul in to a photo. Tintype has been using since civil war and to bring that feeling of war, pride, emotions, struggles etc. This process make the photography unique and remarkable for the their families. Their face tells everything how much they are going through and their life is devoted for our country. Black and white makes the photographs more realistic and it brings the real person out of the picture more than a colorful picture. It is more focused on the person who is being photographed. I think all the war photos should be tintype and it really goes with the theme of war zone.

  8. Fredrick Jah says:

    The tintype process is a photograph made by creating a direct positive on a sheet of iron metal that is blackened by painting, lacquering or enamelling and is used as a support for a collodion photographic emulsion. This process brings out the characteristics and features of the soldier more. This is a very unique process. From this process in the photo you can get a sense of how the war felt, there is a little emotion behind it.

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