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photographers produced tintypes during the Civil War, preserving portraits of soldiers for loved ones, and now as historical documents.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?
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