The Other History Maker II


Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk Nation), one of the two first Native American Women elected to the United States Congress, the other being Deb Haaland...8x10" Wet Plate Collodion Tintype

Story Behind The Plate...

I made this wet plate collodion tintype (The History Maker) in May, 2022 in my tintype studio in Chicago, Illinois. I was supposed to make a tintype of Ms. Davids after she was fist sworn into Congress but Covid hit. I had already made the first tintype of the other woman, Deb Haaland, so, as you could imagine, I was eager to meet Ms. Davids. We sporadically kept in touch during Covid. Then, a good friend reached out to me tell me that Ms. Davids was going to be coming to Chicago in May, 2022. I was fortunate and grateful to connect for a few plates. We had a great time in the studio! Ms. Davids has good taste in music by the way! I want to thank Debra Shore and Clair Steven also for coordinating this wonderful occasion!

I’m one of a rare number of artists using the Wet Plate Collodion Process. The Wet Plate Collodion process is one of the earliest forms of photography, starting in the 1850’s. The process is slow. Each plate is hand-poured. Images are made on 8x10” pieces of tin or glass, which are coated with collodion and silver. The plate, still wet with silver, is then exposed in my large format 8x10” wooden Deardorff camera. I use an old French Petzval brass lens from the 1870’s. There is no negative or film. The plate is poured, exposed and developed on-site. The whole process, from beginning to end, must be finished while the chemistry is wet, which is approximately 15 minutes. I use a small portable box as my darkroom. The process is valued for the level of detail and clarity it allows, as there is no grain. Wet Plate Collodion was very popular during the civil war, and the plates have that "unique wet plate look" that cannot be duplicated. Given the somewhat unpredictability of the chemicals used in this process, flaws and anomalies enhance the image and make tintypes one-of-a-kind pieces of art. Each individual plate is distinct because of the hand pouring technique and the reaction of the chemicals. The plates have a dreamy impressionistic quality that are hard to replicate. Photo © copyright by Joseph Kayne.