Ruby Bellows Tintype was an idea that sprung to life out of the sheer fascination for old-school photographic processes. I sought to create something that not only captures the raw and unfiltered personality of my subjects, but I also wanted to create an object physically tangible and memorable. In a sea of digital photographers chasing the latest and greatest of camera equipment, I chose to go back in time to explore the ways of the “black arts,” as past tintype photographers were marked by black stains on their hands from the accidental introduction of silver nitrate. Curious to the novelty of this nostalgic process, I read all the material I could while talking to other wet plate photographers in the field hoping to gain a glimpse and the know-how to pursue this on my own. Eventually, I purchased a large format camera with ruby colored bellows, which marked the beginning of this peculiar pastime.

Tintype, also known as collodion wet plate photography, is a timely and precarious process that uses silver and collodion to capture a one-of-a-kind image that can't be physically duplicated. Each image is poured and carefully exposed, developed, fixed, then varnished by hand with the final result being a beautiful archival image that is family heirloom-worthy.

As a self-taught illustrator, sewist, web designer, and tintype photographer, I pour all of my knowledge into the heart of Ruby Bellows Tintype. Shooting with a camera from 1914 and a lens from 1885, I aim to capture something truly timeless through silver and light.

-Sheena Dorton

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