Tag Archives: Tintype

Review Santa Fe: Keliy Anderson-Staley

Over the next month, I will be sharing the work of photographers who attended Review Santa Fe in June.  Review Santa Fe is the only juried review in the United States and invites 100 photographers to Santa Fe for a long weekend of reviews, insights, and connections.  

Keliy Anderson-Staley was raised “off the grid” in Maine, received a BA from Hampshire College in Massachusetts and an MFA from Hunter College in New York and currently lives and teaches in Arkansas. She has been making wet plate collodion tintypes for eight years.

Her new project, [Hyphen] Americans, refers to the hyphenated
character of American identities (Irish-American, African-American,
etc.), while only emphasizing the shared American identity.
These portraits compose a broadly inclusive portrait of
America. “With each portrait I hope to capture a powerful likeness, which
I then title only with a first name. Each portrait is revealing but
anonymous. Each is also uniquely representative of an individual but not
of a particular group. Therefore, although the heritage of each
individual might be inferred from assumptions we make about features and
costumes, the viewer is encouraged to suspend the kind of thinking that
would traditionally assist in decoding these images in the context of
American identity politics.”

Keliy has been awarded a Howard Foundation Fellowship , Light Work residency and fellowship, New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, Puffin Grant, and a Bronx Museum AIM residency. Solo exhibitions of her tintype portraits have been installed at the Light Work Gallery in Syracuse, NY, the Palitz Gallery in NYC, the Southeast Museum of Photography, the California Museum of Photography, John Cleary Gallery in Houston and a number of university galleries around the country. Keliy has exhibited widely arcoss the US.

Keliy will have a  “tintype portrait booth” set up at both the Chicago expo through the Catherine Edelman Gallery September 20-23rd and in New Haven in October. (Sittings are free and open to the public) She will also have work at the DC Fine Art Photography Fair in Washington DC, from October 5-7th at the Rebekah Jacob Gallery.

[Hyphen] Americans is a series of tintype portraits made with chemistry mixed according to nineteenth-century recipes, period brass lenses and wooden view cameras. Composed of thousands of portraits, the project is a broadly diverse collection of American faces. Each individual in the project–identified only by a first name–defiantly asserts his or her selfhood, resisting any imposed or external categorizing system we might bring to these images.

At once contemporary and timeless, these portraits raise questions about our place as individuals in history, and the role that photographic technologies and the history of photography have played in  defining identity.

The Mohawk Ironworkers: Rebuilding the Iconic Skyline of New York

For more than a century, ironworkers descended from the Mohawk Indians of Quebec have helped create New York City’s iconic skyline, guiding ribbons of metal into the steel skeletons that form the backbone of the city. In the tradition of their fathers and grandfathers, a new generation of Mohawk iron workers now descend upon the World Trade Center site, helping shape the most distinct feature of Lower Manhattan—the same iconic structure their fathers and grandfathers helped erect 40 years ago and later dismantled after it was destroyed in 2001.

Driving some 360 miles south to New York from the Kahnawake reserve near Quebec, these men work—just as their fathers did—in the city during the week and spend time with their families on the weekends.

One year ago, around the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks, photographer Melissa Cacciola began documenting some of these workers—not an easy task given that the roughly 200 Mohawks (of more than 2,000 iron workers on site) are working at a frantic pace, helping One World Trade Center to rise a floor a week.

Cacciola, a photographer with a background in chemistry and historic preservation, is one of few photographers who work exclusively with tintypes, images recorded by a large-format camera on sheets of tin coated with photosensitive chemicals. Having previously photographed members of the armed-forces for her War and Peace series, Cacciola looked to document those continuing to help the city move past the shadow of tragedy.

“It seemed like a real New York thing,” she told TIME. “And it made sense as the next chapter in the post-9/11 landscape. Rebuilding is part of that story.”

Just as towers like the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center mark the height of America’s skyscraper architecture, tintype photographs are inherently American. Tintype developed in the 1850s as early American photographers looked for alternatives to the expensive and finicky glass-plate processes popular in Europe. Recycled tin was a readily available resource in the new nation—less than 100 years old—and so the tintype grew in popularity, earning its place in American photographic identity. Even Abraham Lincoln’s campaign pins contained an inlaid tintype portrait of the candidate.

“You don’t find tintypes on other continents,” Cacciola said.

Slightly blurry and sepia-toned, Cacciola’s portraits feel timeless, save for the occasional modern stickers on her subjects’ hardhats. Each portrait focuses tightly on the men’s strong facial features.

The 30 tintypes in the series are each made from bulk sheets of tin, although Cacciola has also used recycled biscuit jars in prior tintype projects. Coated first with a black lacquer and then a layer of collodion emulsion to make them light sensitive, the plates are dipped in a silver bath immediately before exposure to form silver iodide—a step that bonds actual particles of silver to the emulsion. Nothing could be more fitting for men working with steel to be photographed on metal.

In the tradition of 19th-century photography, Cacciola’s process is slower than today’s digital systems. But the finished plates are more than simple portraits; rather, they hold their own weight as tangible objects. Just as histories often reflect the blemishes of times past, Cacciola’s tintypes are fragile, containing marks and slight imperfect artifacts that reflect the medium’s limitations. Working by hand rather than machine, each portrait records the artist’s intentions as much as her subject’s.

“These tintypes are so much a part of me,” she says. “Like the fact that you get partial fingerprints or artifacts from the way I’m pouring collodion on the plate—it’s all human. The way silver and light interact in this chemical reaction is a testament to the Mohawk iron workers and this early [photographic] process—it’s unparalleled in terms of portraiture.”

Melissa Cacciola is a New York-based tintype photographer.

Joni Sternbach, 07.08.23 #1 Ditch Jetty

Joni Sternbach, 07.08.23 #1 Ditch Jetty

Joni Sternbach

07.08.23 #1 Ditch Jetty,
Montauk, New York, 2007
From the SurfLand series
Website – JoniSternbach.com

Joni Sternbach was born in the Bronx, New York. She graduated from New York University/International Center of Photography (ICP) with an M.A. in Photography in 1987. She was part of the adjunct faculty at NYU for over 20 years, and is currently a faculty member at ICP and CAP workshops teaching wet plate collodion. Sternbach uses early photographic processes to create contemporary landscapes and seascapes. Her photography has taken her to some of the most desolate deserts in the American West to some of the most prized surf beaches in the world. Her solo exhibition, SurfLand, which captures portraits of surfers in tintype, has exhibited at the Peabody Essex Museum and Blue Sky Gallery and will be on view at the Southeast Museum of Photography in 2012. A monograph of the SurfLand images was published by Photolucida in 2009. She is represented by Rick Wester Fine Art in New York City and Edward Cella Art and Architecture in Los Angeles.

Unbound at the Candela Gallery

Opening June 1st, the Candela Gallery in Richmond, VA will present it’s inagural exhibition featuring work from over 50 contemporary photographers. Spearheaded by in amazing Gordon Stettinius,  the exhibition will continue through July 28th with a UnBound Gala event complete with beer & wine, southern finger food, great music, door prizes and much more. Event tickets will be sold in advance and at the door; and will generate the funds toward purchase and
collection of original photographic work while also actively pursuing
opportunities to donate said work to notable art institutions. 
This annual summertime
invitational exhibition will generate opportunities and exposure for
participating artists far beyond traditional group or juried show
opportunities. For the first go-round, Candela received over 280
submissions from 32 states and 11 countries.
A few of the featured works appear below:

Tom Chambers
Pennants Over Pienza, 2012
Archival Pigment Print
 Joni Sternbach
Donald Takayama, 2010
Unique 8″x10″ Tintype

 Kristin Skees
The Gannons, 2010
Archival Inkjet Print

Valerie Galloway
Luscious, 2009
Archival Inkjet Print 

 Becky Pendel
Sisters, 2006
Archival Pigment Print
 Caleb Cole
Girl In The Backseat, 2007
Archival Inkjet Print
 Louviere & Vanessa
Creature 978XVII, 2006
Inkjet on Gampi, wax and blood

Michael Donnor
Elizabeth, 2009
Toned Gelatin Silver Print

Beth Moon
The Ifaty Teapot, 2006
Platinum Palladium Print

Tom Wik

Minneapolis, MN, 2011

Archival Inkjet Print

Winter Pictures 2012 and some website updates

A note from editor Andy Adams

Hello All,

2012 is off to a great start and I wanted to touch base with some website updates as we round the corner into February. Thanks so much to those of you who have emailed with kind words about the site, your support means so much and it reminds me how connected our community really is. Our Winter Pictures 2012 feature wrapped last week: you can learn more about this year's artists by clicking the “Photo Details” link in their slideshow caption. Feel free to comment on their photos — I’m sharing your feedback with the photographers and many of them are responding to our readers from inside their posts.

If you haven’t already seen them, take a peek at this month’s interviews: we’re featuring conversations with Kelli Connell, Richard Barnes and Darin Mickey. And there are some smart videos profiling photographers Sarah Sudhoff and John Coffer as well as original motion pictures by Simon Biswas, Brian Lesteberg, Susan Worsham and Rafal Milach in the Motion section. I’d love for more people learn about these image-makers, so please share the posts with students and colleagues who would enjoy them.

In other news: We launched our first solo exhibition in the Flak Photo Galleries: a selection of tintype portraits from photographer Keliy Anderson-Staley. In support of her gallery, we’re teaming up with Light Work to give away ten signed copies of her Contact Sheet issue this week. It’s a lovely piece of work, so I hope you’ll make time to enter the drawing — Submission deadline is Thursday, February 2.

I’m also excited to introduce a new feature we’ve been developing: the small slideshow gallery you’re seeing up top. We’re planning to present the photography discussed in Flak Photo’s Features, Books and News sections with this new approach. Big thanks are in order to the Flak Photo Beta group members who tested our demo and helped us iron out the wrinkles this week. The way we look at photography online is changing rapidly, and it’s important to us that you’re able to enjoy Flak Photo when and where you want it, so we’ve built the slideshow with mobile and tablets in mind. In addition to navigating the old-fashioned way with your mouse, you can swipe the pictures on your touchscreen. Give it a try next time you’re away from your desk; we think you’ll like it.

Some of you have suggested that it should be easier to find photos or artists in The Collection. We agree and are planning to improve how you search and browse the archives. To begin with, we’ve proofed the 1,500+ images in the collection — with significant help from members of the online photography community. Sincere thanks are in order to Cécile Poulain, Samuel Glazebrook, Adam Neese, Willson Cummer, Connor McNicholas and Laura Chenault for graciously volunteering to help us with the process — See their handiwork at FlakPhoto.com/Collection.

Finally, I wanted to invite all of you to join us in the Flak Photo Beta group. We’re using Facebook to share behind-the-scenes website updates and also to listen to ideas about how we can improve upon the work  we've done so far. There are more updates coming later this year and your feedback will help us make this experience even better. You can find us at Facebook.com/Groups/FlakPhotoBeta.

I hope the New Year has been a creative one for all of you – As always, I’d love to hear about what you’ve been working on. You can contact me at any time via email, Twitter, Google+ or Facebook.


Andy Adams
Editor • Producer • Publisher

This Must Be the Place: COFFER


Video by Lost & Found Films

"We look at working in documentaries almost like a passport that allows us to see how different people live, across cultural, class, socioeconomic and racial lines. And what better way to sum up that idea than explore people's spaces: their home, their place of work, their hangout spot — to really examine, both visually and emotionally, the places that people LIVE. So we decided to make that the focus of our series, This Must Be The Place." — Ben Wu

Filmmakers Ben Wu and David Usui's This Must Be the Place is a series of short films that explores the idea of home; what makes them, how they represent us, and why we need them. Their most recent installment, Coffer is a meditative portrayal of tintype photographer John Coffer's rural home and workspace in upstate New York. Living off the grid, in a cabin he built by hand more than two decades years ago, the artists explains the philosophy behind his way of life, and his thoughts on the nature of home, while the camera drifts through his space, capturing glimpses of him at work and at rest.

Keliy Anderson-Staley Photobook Giveaway


Keliy Anderson-Staley Contact Sheet #163

A collaboration with Light Work

Hello All,

I'm thrilled to kick off the 2012 Flak Photo Galleries program with an online exhibition by photographer Keliy Anderson-Staley. The community response has been amazing and nearly 3,000 people have viewed her images since the gallery went live last weekend. Thanks so much to those of you who have shared the post with students and colleagues!

View Keliy's [hyphen] Americans exhibition in the Flak Photo Galleries »

A key part of my mission is to promote independent photo publications, so I'm excited to team up with Light Work, a nonprofit organization that supports artists working in photography, to give away signed copies of Keliy's issue of Contact Sheet to ten Flak Photo fans. Keliy's book, which was published in conjunction with her solo exhibition at Light Work last fall, showcases her beautiful tintype portraits and an essay by Light Work Executive Director Jeffrey Hoone.

Learn more about Contact Sheet #163 »

Getting in on the drawing is easy: To enter, browse Keliy's Flak Photo Profile and post a link to one of your favorite tintypes in the comments at the bottom of this post. Ten fans will be randomly selected from the submissions to receive a complimentary copy of the catalog. Call for entries closes Thursday, February 2 at 11:59 PM CDT.

Browse Keliy Anderson-Staley's Flak Photo Profile »

I'd love for more people to hear about this giveaway: If you use social media to talk about photography or are connected to an online photo community, please share this post using the buttons in the upper right corner of the page. Good Luck!


Andy Adams
Editor • Producer • Publisher


PS: Light Work is giving away signed copies of the book too! Visit their Facebook page for details »

[hyphen] Americans


Photographs by Keliy Anderson-Staley, Essay by Geoffrey Batchen

Editor's Note: Flak Photo is proud to feature this gallery in support of Keliy Anderson Staley's current exhibition and solo issue of Contact Sheet, a book of the photographer's tintype portraits published by Light Work in 2011. For more information about this publication and to order a copy for your personal collection, visit LightWork.org.


They loom out of the darkness, as if hovering uncertainly between past and present, offering themselves for our scrutiny with an intensity that borders on the confrontational. Part of it is the look these people give us, staring at the camera for as long as sixty seconds and more, resulting in a kind of clenching of the eyes (as a sitter, you become aware of the sheer physicality of looking under these conditions, of the need to fight your eyes’ desire to wander). Part of it is the texture of their skin, turned into rugged planetary surfaces by the tintype’s peculiar response to color and high resolution of detail. And part of it is the differential focus with which the subjects are depicted—sharp in some places and strangely liquid in others—as if their bodies are floating in a primordial wet world with just the faces breaking the surface. For all these reasons, Keliy Anderson-Staley’s tintype portraits are best described as other worldly, rather than antiquarian.

The tintype, an American invention, was introduced in 1855 and continued to be widely used until the 1930s, making it one of the most enduring of photographic processes. The selection reproduced here is part of a collection of hundreds of contemporary examples taken by Anderson-Staley. Among their other attributes, these portraits — each designated only by a first name and the year of exposure — offer us a survey of race, gender, and age that considerably expands the primarily Caucasian version of American society recorded in nineteenth-century tintypes.

As a collodion negative developed on a small sheet of lacquered metal, a tintype has the appearance of a positive print but no possibility of being reproduced in multiple manifestations. Each tintype is, in other words, a unique object. As a mirror image, tintypes also show an inverted version of their subject (what appears to be a right hand is in fact the left, and so on). To make her tintypes, Anderson-Staley uses hand-poured chemistry that she mixes herself according to nineteenth-century recipes, period brass lenses, and wooden view cameras to expose positive images directly onto blackened metal (usually aluminum) and glass plates. Exposure times are long by today’s standards, and many of her sitters have made use of a hidden metal posing stand, its cold extensions holding the head steady as the seconds tick interminably by, counted off by the photographer.

These technical details matter. They help explain how these photographs come to look the way they do (why, for example, nobody smiles). Walter Benjamin evokes this look rather well in his 1931 essay “Little History of Photography,” when he writes, “The first reproduced human beings entered the viewing space of photography with integrity—or rather, without inscription…The human countenance had a silence about it in which the gaze rested….The procedure itself caused the subjects to live their way into, rather than out of, the moment; during the long duration of the exposure, they grew into the picture.”1

Perhaps that is what is most striking about these pictures: The people portrayed still appear to be growing into them, still seem in the process of becoming themselves. In this way, Anderson-Staley’s work transcends the undoubted curiosity value of her chosen medium. Before they are tintypes, these pictures are portraits, portraits of contemporary Americans (perhaps, even, when seen collectively, a portrait of contemporary America). As such, they raise the whole question of photographic portraiture, of what exactly can be deduced about an otherwise unknown person from a mere picture of his or her face.

The pictorial qualities of the tintype, its obvious artifices and self-conscious accentuation of surface appearance, make these questions unavoidable. They remind us of what we already know: that a photograph represents a truth-to-presence (it certifies that a person was once there before the camera, in some past moment in time and space), but not a truth-to-appearance. These tintypes do not look much like the people they represent; the process itself results in visible deformations of form and feature. And yet these same people seem so much more present than the subjects of other kinds of photographs, in part because the passing of time between then and now—a feature of all photographs—seems here to be flowing before our very eyes. In simultaneously drawing attention to both the medium’s pictorial deceptions and its temporal peculiarities, these pictures insist that our relationship to photography hinges, not on truth, but on desire—on our own desire to transcend time and space by means of the magic of the photograph; to, as it were, cheat death. In short, the work of Keliy Anderson-Staley is an open invitation to see much more than meets the eye.

1. Walter Benjamin, ‘Little History of Photography’ (1931), in Michael W. Jennings, Brigid Doherty, and Thomas Y. Levin eds., The Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility, and Other Writings on Media (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2008), 279-280.