This tintype is interesting. It came into a home cut and sewn simple leather frame and is a little over 3.5″ x 4″ (a bit larger than a quarter plate). The seller who does not specialize in vintage pictures didn’t know if it is a repro or not, only that it came from an estate. I was ready to accept the gamble. To my relief (and joy) it is neither new or a reproduction: this photograph has marks from the leather mat bleeding onto the sides and shows the usual scuffs of vintage tintypes. Also it has no dot matrix typical of repros.
But I can’t date it. This portrait could have been taken anytime between 1890-1960 (using the original method) but I’m thinking 1910s-1920s for some reason. I don’t think it is more recent than around the 60s though; it takes decades to have such side marks from the frame. Yes, that’s quite the window! In a way I like the timelessness of it. I wish I could make out what’s behind him. It looks like some type of construction. There is few if any clue I can use. While dress shirts became the norm for suits around WWI, they were already in use by blue collars much before that and are still in use. The hair could be from anytime and I don’t know enough of overalls “fashion” (lol). If anyone wishes to chime in on dating this tintype, please do!
edit: after talking with some experts on Facebook, this tintype was most likely taken in the 1970s!
The back is black and pristine, mostly because this tintype was put in that sleeve right after it was made. But the scuffs on the front and the type of sleeve lead me to want to believe a person may have carried the portrait on themselves for a while.
His eyes look haunting on his soiled face. And with his long hair, this young worker’s expression reminds me of depictions of Christ in art (minus the beard). He’s mesmerizing; there’s depth, tiredness and maybe sadness. I see him being late teens and still growing, his neck awkwardly too long. He reminds me of the rural worker.
December 19th, 2015 at 5:45 pm
I can’t imagine what made a so-called expert think this was taken in the 1970s! I find that really hard to believe. I agree with you that it’s 1920s or thereabouts. He really does have a Christ like gravitas to him. This is a very special tintype. You are very clever to have found it!
December 19th, 2015 at 6:01 pm
Apparently the concensus was tintypes of the Victorian period or a little after don’t have out of focus backgrounds…I didn’t want to argue that… But it makes me wonder what type of camera was used for this tintype then? If the process is the same I don’t see someone building a special camera with a lens that would focus on the person . Seems like a lot of work instead of just using a vintage box camera.
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December 20th, 2015 at 2:15 pm
If it does come from the 1970s then you’ve got a very rare item. Tintypes were pretty much obsolete by the 1950s and only then were they found in fairgrounds and even so, rarely. In the last 10 years or so people started reviving the wet collodion process. I have three tintype portraits that I had done a couple of years ago by a man who normally works with film or digitally, that that is the extremely niche market now.
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December 22nd, 2015 at 6:20 pm
I’d say they were obsolete by 1920 even! But yes, if it were made in the 70’s it was someone experimenting. I have a friend who does tintypes today. Here’s some of his portrait work: