- this month, meet Michael N. Foster, who's reviving an earlier art form with a contemporary twist!
When Smith & Lens Gallery announced via Facebook that a tintype photographer was traveling to Bay St. Louis, I flat-lined for a moment.
The intrigue and excitement was overwhelming to me - someone who is surrounded by old photographs and ghosts from the past. I couldn't help but think that I was feeling something that those faces in the photographs felt - immortalization by photographic rendering. The concept is something we take for granted in our "selfie" society. This wasn't just any photograph. This was a tintype by photographer Michael N. Foster.
Yours truly was his first appointment. I'm surprised I made it after a night that involved a Waffle House appearance, but I had been practicing my pose for a week and I was dedicated to my a.m. time slot. Here is the fantastic result:
"The process is called 'wet-plate collodion process' and depending what you are shooting on, glass or metal, it's either an ambrotype or tintype. I process the plate, sensitize it, and process it in a dark room. When you do this, you're creating a layer of film to take the picture on. I use aluminum to back the photos and just put the plate in my camera to take the picture."
Simple, right? This process dates back to the mid-1800s and was discovered by Frederick Scott Archer. In the antique world, these tin types are a hot commodity.
When I asked him about his stay the Bay, I could sense the excited exhaustion in his tone, "It was awesome! I honestly left feeling like I knew everybody. Y'all were such a joy to be around. I was thoroughly surprised by the art scene in Bay St. Louis and it was one of the busiest sessions I've had."
I knew it wasn't an ordinary photograph. I understood that it was a chance to perhaps find myself sitting on the shelf of a quaint antique shop one day, sparking the intrigue of passersby and eventually moving on to a new venue. I could travel in this portrait. There's no telling where I will end up. It is my vessel through years and years of inevitable time. I'm bound to this earth by a photograph that captured my soul - and I am okay with that.