Tin Faces – The Portrait Exhibition That Builds Itself

The Camera

The camera pictured above is owned by a photographer, Simon Plummer. It is a ‘Patent Reliable’ folding field camera, hand built and built around 1890 by F. Bulmer of Dewsbury, Yorkshire; it is stamped as Number 12 and is one of only three remaining examples. Simon combines this camera with a Petzval Portrait lens dating from around 1860 and the wet plate collodion process invented by Frederick Scott-Archer in 1851. “Tin Faces” will become an exhibition of Tintype portraits taken at live sessions at Oriel Colwyn in Colwyn Bay, North Wales.

You can see this old process in action, have your portrait taken and see the image developing process with all its defects. As Simon says, “The beauty is in the imperfection.” Once the portrait has been made, the resulting image is hung in the gallery where it will stay until the end of the exhibition on 28 August 2015.

Oriel Colwyn is an intimate little gallery above Theatr Colwyn. “Oriel” is Welsh for gallery. The Curator is Paul Sampson, who is trying to set up a community darkroom for those who may be interested in learning processing skills. A small number of enlargers have been donated and Paul is trying to raise funding of around £2,000 to complete the project. One idea is to offer for sale the portraits taken during the length of this exhibition with the money going to fund the cost of the wet plate process and the residue will go towards the darkroom project.

If you would like to be part of this unique project then you can contact the box office at Theatr Colwyn or via the project website for a sitting – www.orielcolwyn.org  . There are no upfront costs.

The project runs from 10 July to 28 August 2015.

And what, you may ask, has all this got to do with The Fuji Freak blog? Well, Paul and Simon invited me over for a sitting and I took one of my trusty modern cameras – my Fuji X-Pro1 – along to record a sitting. The images below picture the whole process from lining up the sitter on the camera back plate, through exposure and the developing process. Just click on each one to see an enlargement.

Tin Faces Project #1-6Tin Faces Project #1-7Tin Faces Project #1-11

Tin Faces Project #1Tin Faces Project #1-4Tin Faces Project #1-8

Tin Faces Project #1-9

Simon Plummer (below) sold all his digital camera equipment to fund the purchase of the ‘Patent Reliable’ he now uses it to create his wet plate collodion images. The money also funded a university course in photography. Together with Paul Sampson, they developed the idea for the exhibition as a means to fund the Oriel Colwyn darkroom project.

Tin Faces Project #1-10

Here’s a bonus print with yours truly trying out his best Irving Penn selfie pose!

Tin Faces - Tony008 (5x7)All images © Tony Harratt, Oriel Colwyn & Simon Plummer

Dear friends of The Fuji Freak blog, especially my Welsh friends: I’d be grateful if you would promote this blog post via social media, your own blogs, word of mouth or any other means you see fit. If you have any darkroom equipment you no longer want, I am certain that Paul would be very pleased to receive it. This is a very worthwhile project designed to help young people, as well as adults, to learn more about the art of photography. Oriel Colwyn has already involved young people in photography projects and this is the next step in the learning process.

Thank you in advance for any support you might give.


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