We walked in to Photobooth from Valencia Street. It was a simple gallery-type setting. The clean white walls and podiums were covered in photo art and retail. On display were plastic fish-eye cameras, cameras on keychains, refurbished Polaroid Land cameras. It was a candy store and I was the proverbial kid. I wanted to supermarket sweep the whole place.
I came to see the process and I was not disappointed. To our left, there was a live portrait session going. Straight ahead, a woman was finishing some plates. “We need music,” someone said. Cue music.
Michael Schindler is keeping alive a photographic process that dates somewhere from the 1850’s. He creates wet-collodian tintypes. The photo is created from his camera right onto an aluminum plate.
But, it is more than that.
Antiquated, dead, obsolete? You only have to walk inside the shop or, better yet, take a look at one of the tintypes to see why we still value this. You are looking at a singular moment, crystallized. One unique expression of yourself. Never to be duplicated. Living like a breath. Bathed in silver. Corporeal. Spectral.
“I realized right away, ‘Ah, this is what I’ve been looking for,’ ” Shindler, 40, says. “With a tintype, there is no negative, and you can’t reproduce the image. The plate gets changed by the light coming off the person. It’s direct physical evidence that the plate and the person were in the room together, like a thumbprint.”
The tintype marked a time in history when photography was accessible to the working class. The previous Daguerreotype being affordable only to the wealthy. From the method to the storefront, Photobooth gives equitable access. Well done.