Photographer Uses Old Tin Cans for Tintype Photos

What better surface for taking a tintype photo than a salvaged tin can?

tin can tintype

tin can tintype

David Emitt Adams

Photographer David Emitt Adams has taken a uniquely historical approach to photography with his "Conversations with History" series of images. He's using an incredibly old technique (wet-plate collodion) on old objects (tin cans found in Arizon desert) as a way of commenting on the history of photography and the region.

Adams is a native to Arizona, and looked to create a dialogue about the history of photography in the area, as well as the impact of humans on the once empty desert. In his artist's statement, he said:

The deserts of the West also have special significance in the history of photography. I have explored this landscape with an awareness of the photographers who have come before me, and this awareness has led me to pay close attention to the traces left behind by others. For this body of work, I collect discarded cans from the desert floor, some over four decades old, which have earned a deep reddish-brown, rusty patina. This patina is the evidence of light and time, the two main components inherent in the very nature of photography. I use these objects to speak of human involvement with this landscape and create images on their surfaces through a labor-intensive 19th century photographic process known as wet-plate collodion. The result is an object that has history as an artifact and an image that ties it to its location. These cans are the relics of the advancement of our culture, and become sculptural support to what they have witnessed.

Tintyping is an extremely involved process, and involves exposing directly onto a treated metal surface, which is then coated with chemicals, and the image is fixed in place. Adams' work combines historical objects with a historical photography method to create art that's both innovative and thought provoking.