Tag Archives: Ambrotype

Rendering The Spirit: Interview with Atalie Day Brown

What is your name?
My name is Atalie Day Brown and my husband’s name is Jared Brown.

Where are you from?
I grew up in small-town Cumberland, Maryland and my husband is from Crownsville, MD. We currently live in Pasadena, MD.

How did you get into photography as an art medium?
I have been obsessed with photography since I was a kid. My grandfather was an amateur photographer and I was always inspired by his imagery and talent. I have always been attracted to photography as an art form. Originally, I wanted to become a fine art photographer, it was only when I entered art school/college that I decided to focus more on photojournalism. My husband has had an on-going casual curiosity with photography, but he became more interested while I was going through art school. We decided a few years ago to pursue alternative processes together, as a team.

Which alternative processes do you practice?
We currently create tintypes and ambrotypes

What attracted you to alternative processes in general?
Alternative processes involve a deeper level of intent. It takes additional time and resources to create handmade imagery, therefore you must be purposeful when creating one. You have to consider so many factors and develop a plan. Our tintypes are made using an 8×10 Kodak Studio Camera, circa 1920, and a Petzval lens from 1868; thus, the equipment is large and cumbersome. This process is a labor of love and we appreciate the many aspects of its anatomy.

What drew you to the specific media you practice?
Tintypes have always been an interest to both me and my husband. We love the ethereal qualities tintypes lend to our subjects. Furthermore, the chemical process is a constant challenge, and we (mostly) enjoy combating those seemingly never-ending factors. The historical implications of the medium is also attractive, we love researching pioneers in this field. Another alluring part of the process is the individuality of every single image, no two are ever the same.

How does the choice of media influence your choice of subject matter (or vice versa)?
When creating tintypes, we are constantly debating what subject matter will translate honestly into a tintype image. We select people that are kindred spirits to the process, which can be very divisive. As for still life, we have found that organic matter adds a unique texture to the image. We also enjoy incorporating traditional tintype elements with the modern world.

In today’s mobile, electronic world of instant communication and virtual sharing of images, how important is it to you to create hand-made images?
Creating handmade images in this era of instant-gratification photography is extremely important to us. We are constantly inundated with snapshots, and while they have their place, creating a tangible piece of art using a time-consuming, obsolete medium is truly gratifying.

Is your choice to practice alternative, hand-made photography a reaction to, a complement to, or not influenced by the world of digital media?
Our decision to create alternative photographs is absolutely influenced by current digital media. However, we would have discovered the process regardless of digital media.

Do you incorporate digital media into your alternative process work?
No.

What role do you see for hand-made/alternative process work in the art world of today? Where do you see yourself in that world?
We see alternative processes offering a different avenue for artists who are interested in re-defining alternative mediums in a contemporary manner. I think these handmade processes will become more and more appealing as digital photography continues to dominate. The chemistry and darkroom is a magical place. We just hope to participate in the revival of this medium, one tintype at a time.

Skull, by Atalie Day Brown
Skull, by Atalie Day Brown

Rendering The Spirit opens March 18, with the Artists’ Reception on Saturday, March 26, from 6-8pm at Photoworks, 7300 MacArthur Boulevard, Glen Echo, Maryland, 20812.

New Daguerreotypes coming!

Well, new to me that is…

I’ve been off the collecting kick lately because I had some more gear and supplies to buy for my own photography. I found a pair of 14×17 inch film holders that fit my Canham 14×17, and although they’re not a color match for the other three, they’re more than good enough – the external dimensions are identical, so they
re an exact fit, which is the most critical factor when looking for such things. Oh, and they’re less than half the price of new ones that do match my existing holders.

So, with that holdup out of the way, it’s on to more collecting. Two daguerreotypes and a milk glass ambrotype are en route. Daguerreotypes are much more familiar to most people, so I’ll save further commentary until I have them to show. A milk glass ambrotype though- you might wonder what is it? Simply, it’s an ambrotype on a piece of white, opaque glass. Not so simply, to get the image to show, you create a collodion negative the same way you would if you were planning to make albumen or salt prints. You coat a second wet plate onto a piece of milk glass (a white/opalescent glass), then separate the negative from the milk glass with a thin wire or shim or anything that will keep the collodion original very close to but not in contact with the new wet plate. Expose and process as normal for collodion. You end up with a positive on the milk glass (a negative of a negative is a positive). Because of the extra labor involved, they’re somewhat rare. The one I’ve got coming is a very small (1/9th plate size) oval portrait of a young woman, done with a very attractively executed vignette, in a red velvet case. I’ll post pictures as soon as I get it in my own hands. I have no idea who she is or what she did for a living, but something about the outfit feels like a nurse’s habit. Maybe it’s the vignette giving a subliminal halo to the woman adding to the impression – who knows? It probably is a civil war era image, but if that’s true, she’s probably not a nurse, as most of the official requirements for nurses during the civil war requested that they be doughy, extremely plain of looks, and past marriageable age. This girl is none of the above.