Tintype, c Ed Drew

The American Civil War was the first conflict in which cameras were widely used to capture the events and the people. Photographers would follow the troops, offering to take portraits of the men before battles to send home. They also photographed the aftermath to sell to newspapers. That’s the reason that the Library of Congress has a rather massive collection of soldier’s portraits from that era. The technology in use at the time was called “tintype” and produced a very distinct looking photograph. Now, a photographer named Ed Drew has used that same Civil War era technology to capture portraits and images from the current war in Afghanistan, and the resulting images are striking. You can find a collection of the pictures here. [via Reddit]

23 Responses to Photographer Uses Civil War Era Tintype Camera to Capture Soldiers in Afghanistan

  1. These are “tintype” style photos. They do not appear to BE tintypes. They are very cool, but I doubt seriously anyone is lugging the cumbersome original equipment around Iraq/Afghanistan to take them. They also show all the hallmarks of procedural post-processing to get the effects of a tintype – in layman’s terms, Photoshop.

  2. I don’t know if this is true but I’ve heard that the most photographed American from the tin type era was Custer. He was the rock star of his time.

  3. Does anyone know why the images are reversed? You can tell on the shots where the soldiers name tags are visible. All the words are backwards…

    • Optically, it’s the same reason a negative (anybody remember film? ) is backwards.

      The lens flips the image on the negative, then when you print the negative the enlarger flips the images again, so the print is forward.

      In a tintype the image is produced directly on the media in the camera. So there’s no second step that flips it back.

      • Wasn’t “Billy the Kid” thought to be left handed until some one realized “loading port”on his rifle was on the wrong side ?

  4. These are fascinating to me, and fantastic to look at. People tend to think of the “old days” as blurry and black & white, and modern times as crisp and colorful. But if you can make modern times look blurry and black & white, then imagine what the Civil War era subjects would look like if photographed in today’s crisp super hi-res. Those people weren’t any different than we are today.

  5. This is some outstanding photography. FYI: the sombrero is there because this group of AIRMEN (not soldiers. You may say I am picking nits, but it matters) are nicknamed Pedros. They are members of the pararescue jumper community of the USAF. “That others may live.”

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