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Southwest Tintypes

Author: Shawndrea corbin
Issue: September, 2015, Page 180
Photography by David Emitt Adams

 “Getting Along,” 12"H by 18"L by 14"W


A unique take on traditional tintypes
reflects Arizona’s ever-changing landscape


A good deal of artists push boundaries, but some push a bit further, whetherthrough their subject matter or with the materials they use. In his compelling series “Conversations with History,” photographer David Emitt Adams uses a complicated process to expose images of iconic desert landscapes onto the rusted litter he collects there. “As long as people have been in the American West, they have found its barren landscape to be ideal for dumping garbage,” says the Yuma born artist. “The objects I use for my photos are remnants from people who have settled in the region or trash left by those who were just passing through.”

To get the pictures onto their atypical canvases,Adams employs a wet-plate collodion process pioneered in the 1850s. Used during the Civil War, this photography technique requires glass or metal to be coated in collodion, followed by a dip in silver nitrate—rendering it light sensitive. While the pre-treated surface is still wet, Adams exposes it to the light within his camera to capture the images.

The complex procedure results in sepia-toned pictures that appear as though they’re from anotherera. This antiquated quality, Adams notes, pays homage to the scenes captured by famed early photographers, such as Timothy O’Sullivan, who showed the world the magnificent beauty of the West through the art of landscape photography. “I’m using this historic process to speak of contemporary issues,” says Adams.

“View of Highway from Picacho Peak,” 5"H by 11"L by 8"W



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