Celebrity Tintypes

There’s something particularly charming about photographic juxtaposition. It’s always been something that especially appeals to me, whether it’s the contrast of hard and soft, old versus new, warm with cold… There are countless ways these yin/yang juxtapositions work to make interesting photographs. Here’s a juxtaposition that I think is exceptionally well done: celebrity tintype portraits. What’s more contemporary than a celebrity portrait? And what could be less modern than a mid-18th-century wet plate photographic technique? Photographer Victoria Will made these beautiful tintype portraits of celebrities last week at the Sundance Film Festival, and as the comments on this Esquire blog post show, many people are passionate about their tintypes. Apparently some expert photographers chimed in that the flaws and imperfections in her portraits were detracting from the images, and that meant that they were amateurish and unworthy of praise. My take is that those imperfections are part of the charm. There’s a difference between technical perfection and a good photograph. It’s one I have to remind myself on a regular basis. I’ll take a stirring image over technical mastery any day.


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