ASPIRATIONS—Tin Type – Ashley Hoff

Asp - Tin Type image

OK, Here Goes:

James asked me to write about inspiration.  I have tried my hand at many different genres of photography and have just as many inspirations.  But this time, I have decided to turn inspiration into aspiration…

As many of you know, I have a bit of a thing for the traditional photography processes.  At this stage, while I am still only playing with film, one other older process has specifically caught my eye – collodion and more specifically Tintype.  Without going into a history lesson, the Tintype process was most popular in the later half of the 19th century.  If you see American Civil War images, quite often they are tintypes or ambrotypes.

Asp - Tin Type image 1

Why this process?  Firstly, as you will see in this write up, the images are striking.  Unlike modern Black and White films, the emulsion tends to be more sensitive to the blue spectrum, which tends to make the skin and eyes very detailed.  There is also an intrinsic beauty to the images – they are far from perfect and each and every image is 100% unique.

There is another reason.  Over the years I have discovered the work of 2 photographers specifically who have been taking collodian type images and giving their modern slant on it:

Giles Clement.Asp - Tin Type image 2

The initial image was the first image from Giles that caught my attention.  I knew about the Tintype process and was searching out examples.  The thing that immediately struck me with this image was it was taken of a relatively modern scene.

It didn’t take me long to find more images from Giles that certainly struck a chord:

One thing that Giles has over the practitioners in the day is the ability to freeze the frame.  The light sensitive Asp - Tin Type image 3materials used in this kind of imagery is very slow, which results in exposures ranging into the seconds under normal light.  Giles uses high powered lights which freezes time much better then any turn of the century photographer could ever dream about.  But, as you can see above, the people shots are all generally taken with lenses wide open and a shallow depth of field.  This, though, only adds to the general look of the images.

Giles generally works in the Midwest of the USA.  If you want to find out more, check out his website or flickr page

Craig TuffinAsp - Tin Type image 4

The first time I saw the above self portrait of Craig, it took my breath away.  As Giles does above, Craig takes advantage of high speed lights for his portrait work.

As Craig works out of the Gold Coast and Northern NSW, quite often his images have a bit of an Aussie slant to them:

If you ever get a chance, check out his flickr stream and have a look at the camera he uses as to take his 24×32 inch images!

Craig can be found at or his flickr stream - Tin Type image 7

Now, where does this leave me?  Well, my journey has just started.  I have started to kit up with a 4×5 large format camera, mainly to learn how it works, but also as an introduction into this type of photography.  I have plans to try the dry collodian process with the smaller size and take it from there.

Cheers Ashley


A tintype, also known as a melainotype or ferrotype, is a photograph made by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of iron coated with a dark lacquer or enamel and used as the support for the photographic emulsion. Tintypes enjoyed their widest use during the 1860s and 1870s, but lesser use of the medium persisted into the early 20th century and it has been revived as a novelty in the 21st.

Source – Wikipaedia

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