I’m always happy to promote unique Barcelona business endeavours on this website. And none comes more unique than Alberto’s tintype photography studio in the Raval, called Señor Archer.
“What photography? Tintype?”
Well yes, as you asked, let me explain what tintype photography actually is. Or rather, so I get it right, let me just copy and paste a snippet from good ol’ Wikipedia.
A tintype, also known as a melainotype or ferrotype, is a photograph made by creating a direct positive on a thin sheet of iron coated with a dark lacquer or enamel and used as the support for the photographic emulsion. Tintypes enjoyed their widest use during the 1860s and 1870s, but lesser use of the medium persisted into the early 20th century and it has been revived as a novelty in the 21st.
A novelty it may be to some. But this is a process that is achieved with love and care. It fits in agreeably with the current slow movement.
And so it was I went along to Alberto’s studio in a quiet street in Raval just around the corner from the far busier Carrer de Joaquín Costa.
Alberto is an extremely affable chap. His passion for this old school technique shines through and it is a real pleasure to hear him explain the process to you.
You start by preparing the slides. Alberto uses aluminium slides though you can use glass too. The plate is prepared by pouring on the collodion, the magic ingredient that is the photographic film. Alberto mixes all the chemicals himself. This process is as much about the chemical composition and the photographer’s experience during development as it is the actual taking of the photograph.
Then we go to the studio area. I sit in place, we check the lighting, set the camera and get everything ready. Alberto returns to the dark room to dip the plate in a silver nitrate solution that makes it photosensitive.
Now comes the difficult bit. At least it was for me. The plate is loaded into the camera and there is a 15 second exposure time during which you have to be absolutely still – no movement, no blinking. Now I would have sworn on someone quite dear to me that I didn’t move a muscle, but luckily I didn’t, because when the plate was developed it was clear I did.
The shot below is the third attempt. The 5×4 inch plate itself looks great. But when you scan it and blow it up the fuzziness is much clearer to see. This was the best one for sure. The previous two were completely unacceptable to Alberto and they are destined for some chemical fate.
Despite my inability to keep still I thoroughly enjoyed the whole thing. I love photography anyway, and I found this beautiful process particularly fascinating. The feeling as the plate develops in the dark room right before your eyes is quite unique. It really is magic!
My tintype photography plate
So this is my plate. On the first go Alberto said I looked like an Arctic explorer – Shackleton maybe. I was happy to go with that. Although this plate is clearer now he thinks I just looked startled.
I do encourage you to give it a go yourself. I’m sure you’ll be a much better subject than I was. And it really is a special thing.
Why Señor Archer?
And where did the name, Señor Archer, come from? Well Frederick Scott Archer was a sculptor who invented the wet-plate collodion photographic process back in the 19th century. Unfortunately like many great achievers from previous centuries he died in poverty at a young age.
Señor Archer – Barcelona Tintype Studio – The Collodion Process
Watch the video below to get a greater understanding of the process behind this fascinating photographic technique.
Where to find Señor Archer
Fancy giving it a go? Or getting it as a gift for someone maybe. You can find Señor Archer in the Raval at Carrer de la Paloma, 15. Or via any of the sites below.