Will Wilson at UVU Native artist teaches students tintype

Photos by: Julie Ostler

Will Wilson, contemporary Native American artist based in Santa Fe, New Mexico, visited UVU thanks to a grant written by Courtney Davis, assistant professor of art history, and Lori Santos, assistant professor of art and visual communications. Wilson has been working on his project called "Critical Indigenous Photographic Exchange" for five years and has shot over 3,000 portraits. He demonstrated the tintype process to students and faculty March 16 outside the Science Building Atrium.

Wilson setting up his 8x10 camera that he will use to make a tintype photograph.
"This is a slow photography project where I’m engaging people, and sharing this historic process with them, and dialoguing with them about what it means to make portraits." -Will Wilson
Willson setting up his portable dark room.

In order to do this historic process on location, you need a portable darkroom. Wilson uses an ice fishing tent for his darkroom. He is setting up all the chemicals and is preparing to do a photographic process called wet plate collodion. This process is called wet plate because, to get a print, the prepared plate must be wet while exposing the image. It is vital to have a darkroom close by so that you can coat the plate, and take your image before the plate dries.

Wilson is coating a blackened piece of metal with Collodion, which he will then put into a silver bath for 3 to 5 minutes to sensitize the plate so it can receive an image.
"It’s almost like the first Polaroid in a way." -Wilson
Wilson photographs Nicola Sousa, senior of fine art photography.

Once the plate is in the silver bath, he will focus on his subject, and then proceed to the darkroom tent to load the tin into the film holder. He can then load the plate into the camera, remove the slide and expose the wet plate.

"If you come sign onto the project and sit with me then you get to walk away with the original tin type. Through this process the actual artwork is disseminated and goes out into the world." -Wilson
Wilson working in his portable dark room.

After exposing the plate, you put the slide back in and head to the darkroom tent to develop the plate. Wilson uses a safelight to see and pours the developer over the plate, which produces a negative of the image. When it’s done developing, you place it in the fixer to stop it from developing further and to remove the extra silver that makes it light sensitive. This way the image will stay at this exposure when exposed to light.

Here is the final image.

Afterward, you will need to let the plate dry. Since the image is just sitting on the top of the plate, it is very fragile and could be scratched or damaged. The last step is to varnish the plate, giving it a layer of protection to ensure the image remains.

Wilson shows students how to prepare and take tintypes.
“I dreamed up this project where I get to show people this old photographic process and have an exchange about what portraiture is." -Wilson


Julie Ostler

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.