Magazine article WLA ; War, Literature and the Arts

Afghanistan, Combat Zone Tintype

Magazine article WLA ; War, Literature and the Arts

Afghanistan, Combat Zone Tintype

Article excerpt

My work is based on the history of American military members and their involvement in war as part of a brotherhood. While deployed to the Helmand Province in Afghanistan April-June this year, I decided to document my life and the people around me as part of a fine art project. It extended to my own involvement in America's longest war, and it is meant to be a very isolated personal study of those who fight our wars. I decided to employ the antiquated tintype wet plate process, the first time to my knowledge, that tintypes have been made in a combat zone since the American Civil War. Tintypes are a slow and methodical process, which I feel best exemplifies the humanity of the people I work with as well as involves me from beginning to end to the creation of the photograph. Through my tintypes in-theater, I connected to my brothers in arms which helped to translate multiple persons' views of a war, besides my own, through process and subject.

Artist's Note

The process of tintype begins by pouring collodion (a flammable, syrupy solution of cellulose nitrate in ether and alcohol) onto a metal plate or sheet of glass, where it firms slightly and is then put it into a dark box filled with silver nitrate to sensitize the plate. The silver combines with the chemicals of the collodion to make a light sensitive film of salted silver. In darkroom conditions you remove the plate from the silver nitrate bath and place into a plate holder, which you will eventually slide into the back of the camera when you are ready to make an exposure. The plate must remain wet, so the period of time from when you remove the plate from the silver nitrate, to the exposure and then the development, is limited. The developer is ferrous sulfate and acetic acid (vinegar), which takes less than a minute to develop, and after which you will see an opaque image appear. …

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