Posts Tagged ‘ tintype ’
Our photo expert, Jayne Shrimpton, analyses your family photos.
Joan Drage sent us her photo and asked:
‘I am attaching a metal ferrotype photograph and have also included the information on the reverse. This was found among a large collection of carte de visite photographs which my husband inherited but it is the only one printed on metal. He has been able to identify most of the others but has no idea who this rather distinctive man is. It might give us a start if you could suggest an approximate date.’
‘This is an interesting photograph – a ferrotype or tintype, to use its more popular name, although the word ‘ferrotype’ is a more accurate description as the image was struck onto a thin iron plate. This photographic process was first patented in America in the mid-1850s and the ferrotype enjoyed great popularity there for many years.
In Britain it didn’t meet with such success: being the cheapest kind of photograph available, it was considered inferior by many photographers and relatively few British studios produced tintypes, favouring cartes de visite and other card-mounted prints.
Tintype photography became more popular from the late-1870s onwards, especially with outdoor photographers and itinerants who plied their trade in on-the-spot photographs at the seaside, fairground and on the street, the metal pictures being handed direct from the camera to the customer. Few ferrotypes taken in a photographer’s studio survive in today’s family collections, so your studio tintype is a fairly rare example.
Tintypes were not widely accepted by commercial photographers; however, they could produce extraordinarily clear, good portraits, as illustrated here. This powerful, intimate image looms out of the blank background, appearing almost three-dimensional and depicting every contour of your ancestor’s face and detail of his dress with impressive clarity.
The close dating of male portraits is sometimes difficult as men’s fashions changed only subtly, but several elements of this man’s appearance indicate that he was photographed during the 1870s. He wears the fashionable hairstyle of this decade, the top hair swept or flicked back over the head, while his long, extremely bushy beard and full moustache reflect the taste for very prominent facial hair among some men at this time.
He is well-dressed for the photograph and the garments visible in this short half-length view comprise a formal frock coat, waistcoat and spotless white shirt, the wide lapels of both coat and waistcoat also features that suggest the 1870s.
Unusually for tintypes, which are generally not labelled, the studio details are attached to the back of the plate. The London Ferrotype Company seems to have had a brief existence and is not listed on the usual London photographers’ database, but a photographic colleague, Marcel Saffier, has advised that the business is named in an advertisement dating from 1873, confirming the clues that the image indicates.’
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