The Resurgence of Tintype Photography: An Interview with Adrian Whipp

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On the road in Austin, Texas, you may come across what looks like a small house attached to the back of a pickup truck. A banner affixed to the side of it will tell you that what exists inside is a tintype photobooth that goes by “Lumiere.” Tintype is a mid 19th-century photographic process by which an image is exposed on a sheet of metal dipped in collodion and a nitrate solution. There’s more chemistry to it than I’m letting on, but it is an old process that Adrian Whipp and Loren Doyen use to create portraits in Austin. We had a chance to speak with Adrian about this vintage endeavor.

All images are courtesy of Adrian Whipp and Loren Doyen.

Phoblographer: How did you get your start in photography?

Whipp: I took a photography course at a young age and was soon hooked on making 35mm photographs. I ended up with a degree in Visual Communication. I feel I was lucky to be one of the last graduates to be trained only in analog photographic processes. However, coming out into a digital world with analog training was a difficult adjustment. I shot plenty of digital but never found myself connecting to it in the same way that I had with analog photography.

Lumiere_Tintype_Collodion_Ambrotype_1423Phoblographer: When did you discover the tintype process?

Whipp: I had long been aware of the process but was convinced it would be far too difficult to learn. One day I figured I would give it a shot, and even though the first plates were terrible, it made me realize how much I had missed being in the darkroom. After a few small successes I fell in love, and starting throwing all my spare money and time at the process. The point of no return came when I realized I was making film. I wasn’t dependent on the film industry avoiding bankruptcy to do what I love.

Phoblographer: How long did it take to create Lumiere?

Whipp: It took 2 months to build the photobooth, that was with a lot of help. We used a lot of old pallet wood and reclaimed fixtures to keep the costs down, and give it a unique, handmade feel.

Phoblographer: How was business in the beginning and how did it grow?

Whipp: At first we were shooting from our home – but we soon outgrew that. I always wanted it to be a mobile operation, so that we could pull up and introduce people to a process that they may not even have been aware still existed. It’s nice to hand someone a handmade photograph and explain how we make them using 150 year old technology.

Phoblographer: Do you photograph outside of Lumiere, and if you do, what do you use?

Whipp: Digitally, I shoot with a Fuji x100. Its a quirky camera but I love it. I also shoot 35mm and a lot of 8mm movie film. I’m about to buy a Polaroid camera too – I get a lot of Polaroid shooters in the photobooth and their enthusiasm for the format is infectious!

Phoblographer: Any projects in the pipeline?

Whipp: Yes, we are currently touring Austin shooting a lot of local Artisans. It’s one of my favorite things to do, since we get to have an insight into creative people and what makes them tick. It can be very inspirational.
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