Hot History Facts and Hot Fiction

Monday, June 3, 2013

Interview with Modern Tintype Photographer Ed Ross

I love history and collect tintypes. I was searching the Internet and I stumbled upon Ed Ross' photography site. I spent a long time looking at all his modern tintype pictures. I didn't even know photography like this existed! They are so interesting I encourage you to take a look. You can view his site here.

Mr. Ross was kind enough to agree to a quick interview. I am pleased to have him as a guest on History in the Hot Lane.

For those who do not know, what is a tintype?

In the tintype method of photography, a positive image is made in the camera on a piece of metal.  A similar method is called an ambrotype, in which the image is made on glass.  The tintype came into huge popularity around the time of the civil war, as soldiers made images to give to their loved ones (and their loved ones made images to give to the soldiers).    

I know photographers set up at Civil War reenactments and other historical gatherings. Have you ever participated in one?

I have not done so.  My only overlap to date has been some "civil war pin-up" images.  These are in the "pin-up" vein but with civil war accouterments.

What inspired you to take modern tintype pictures?

I enjoy the unique qualities of the method.  It takes a lot of effort to do, and I get a lot of satisfaction out of an image when I get one I like.  

How long have you been taking tintype pictures?

Just short of 5 years.

What do you like about the tintype medium for photographing your models?

Although a tintype takes about 15 minutes to make (beginning to end), when completed it is done-done, like a polaroid.  So if a shoot lasts three hours, I may make 10-12 images.  But the model and I are able to hold and look at each image as it is completed, and we make changes as we go along.  I find this to be a very engaging process with a model, and much more so than with film or digital (though similar to polaroid).

What are the cons to tintypes as opposed to modern photography?

You need quite a bit of gear, including a darkroom (or darkspace).  The chemicals can be noxious.  It isn't easy to do well consistently.

Did photographers take nude pictures in the 19th century?

Yes, and particularly in Paris.  There was a brisk trade in nude photography dating back to the 1850s, and most were characterized as tools for painters (i.e., an inexpensive option to paying a sitter to pose). 

How do you hope to capture with your tintypes? Or how do you want them to be perceived?

That's a tough question, and I'm not too good with the "artists statement" thing.  I shoot what I think is beautiful, both people and landscape.  I hope people perceive some beauty in my images.  

Thank you, again for the interview! The tintype you provided for this post is beautiful. Color can add beauty to pictures, but sometimes I enjoy the simplicity of black and white. I really appreciate that you are continuing to carry on this old art form.

If you have any questions for Mr. Ross please leave them below. Or you can just comment. As a fellow artist I know we love feedback!


  1. Hi Ed,
    I love how you modernized the tintype. Your photography is very original. Keep up the good work!

  2. these are lovely! and such a different style. I'm a fan of the old style photography because it lends such a different feel.