Carla Rodriguez developing a tintype
Carla Rodriguez developing a tintype

Carla Rodriguez ’11 recently spoke with the Star Tribune about her use of 1800s technology to create stunning portraits.

Tintypes, a film developing process popular during the Civil War, are increasing in popularity as artists seek to create lasting images. Rodriguez first learned of the process from instructor Zoey Melf, who teaches a workshop on the medium through MCAD's Continuing Education program. The tintype's finicky—and at times, even dangerous—nature is what drew her to the process. “The harder it was to do, the more I liked it,” she tells Star Tribune.

Developing a tintype begins with coating a thin sheet of metal with cellulose nitrate dissolved in ether and then dunked in a bath of silver nitrate, causing the surface to be light sensitive. The plate is then placed into a holder and inserted into a large format camera. The shutter of the camera must be opened and closed while the plate is still wet, therefore the photo subject, lighting, and focus must be set up ahead of time. Once the exposure is made, the plate is rushed to the darkroom to be developed. The black and white image quickly appears directly on the metal surface. “It’s magic,” Rodriguez tells Star Tribune, with “a ton of chemistry involved.”

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