Tintype tourism in San Francisco

Earlier this week, the family and I were in San Francisco, visiting with Ypsilanti expatriates and reconnecting with seldom seen family members. I hope to tell you more about our experiences in the days to come, but, for the time being, I wanted to share these very cool tintype photos that we had taken at a place in the Mission district called Photobooth. To my knowledge, it’s the only tintype portrait studio in the world, and it was an incredible experience. In a world where photos have come to be cheap, effortless and pervasive, I found it incredibly satisfying to sit for a photo when I knew that the photographer and I only had one shot to get it right. At $60 a portrait, they’re expensive, but, if you have the money to invest, I’d highly recommend the experience. (After having your photo snapped, you’re offered a beer, and directed to a small waiting area, where everyone gathers around a heated case, where the thin iron sheets, once they’re processed, are put to cure.) For those of you who can’t get to San Francisco, I heard from one of the guys at Photobooth that plans are afoot to launch a pop-up location in New York in the not too distant future. If you want to find out out more, I’d suggest keeping abreast by way of Facebook… As coincidence would have it, the Photobooth team is celebrating their one year anniversary this evening, and, given what I saw happening in San Francisco, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that, by next year at this time, they’d expanded into other markets.

I think all of the photos turned out well, but I’m particularly pleased with Arlo’s, which, given the amount that he was moving, could have easily been a complete and total mess. We hadn’t gone in with the intention of including him, but, when we saw how good they were turning out, we decided to roll the dice, and I’m incredibly happy that we did. (You can’t see me in the photo, but I’m squatting beneath him, trying to hold him in place.) Doesn’t he look impish?

Actually, now that I think about it, it’s kind of appropriate that we all had photos taken on this trip in which we look like sun-damaged, Depression-era Okies, as we spent quite a bit of time exploring the old stomping grounds of John Steinbeck, the author of The Grapes of Wrath. That will have to wait until later, though….

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  1. Dan R.
    Posted August 24, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    You got a perty face.

  2. Posted August 24, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    Most people can’t take their eyes off my ass long enough to truly appreciate my face. Thank you, Dan.

  3. Edward
    Posted August 24, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

    There needs to be a new website launched for Instagram photos of tintypes.

  4. Leslie
    Posted August 24, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    You’re right, really stunning photos.

  5. Dale
    Posted August 24, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

    These do look nice — the image of Arlo is one of a kind.

  6. james
    Posted August 25, 2012 at 2:07 am | Permalink

    heh- your tintype makes you look like Udo Kier.

  7. Erika
    Posted August 25, 2012 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    These are gorgeous photos. Very “dustbowl”.

  8. tommy
    Posted August 25, 2012 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    Mark – I work with a guy (cube mate actually) who does this work locally. I will most certainly pass this post his way. He claims that there are very few across the country that pursue this ‘hobby’ as it is expensive, time consuming, and takes a lot of trial and error to become good at it. I can give you more info if you like. Let me know.

  9. tommy
    Posted August 25, 2012 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    Here is a link to some of the work my cube mate does. Interesting stuff indeed


  10. Posted August 25, 2012 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Thanks, Tommy. I’ll check out the link. I’ll also try to post some photos later of their setup. Judging from the lights that they were using, and the camera they had, I’d say there was a pretty significant up-front investment. Also, in the short time that I was there, I saw them retake three photos because they had spots and streaks that were deemed to be unacceptable. Apparently there’s no getting around the fact that the chemistry is a bit fickle. Still, though, my sense is that they’re profitable at $60 a photo.

  11. Anonymatt
    Posted August 25, 2012 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    The photos all look great even though the process makes everyone look severe (except Arlo who probably wasn’t trying to hold still). The photos of you and Linette together look kind of like American Gothic. (Next time wear glasses and shave a bald spot into your hair.)

  12. Eel
    Posted August 25, 2012 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    If I made kids that beautiful, that’s all I’d do. I start an impregnation factory.

  13. grandma
    Posted August 25, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    A MAZING!!!! Absolutely beautiful – but erie!!!! It’s like I can’t stop looking at each one.

  14. KKT
    Posted August 26, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Permalink

    This, if anyone is interested, is Udo Kier:


  15. Andy Cameron
    Posted August 26, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

    @Dan, I think you meant perty mouth… or maybe I did.

  16. Posted August 28, 2012 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    You can occasionally find hobbyists offering tintypes at Civil War reenactments (as with the link by Tommy).

  17. suswhit
    Posted September 3, 2012 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    Wow! Love the tintypes. Such a great idea.

  18. Photobooth
    Posted September 13, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Hello Brooklyn

    Photobooth is hitting the road. We’re packing up one of our 4×5 view camera and portable tintype darkroom and heading to Brooklyn. We’ll be doing a tintype portrait pop up at Berry Park restaurant on September 28th 7pm – 2am and September 30th 5pm – Midnight. Advance booking required, available online.



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