Behind the scenes as Joseph Gamble produces large-format tintypes for Vanitas Fair exhibit

Joseph Gamble Vanitas Fair: A Collection of Tintypes

 

Tampa portrait photographer Joseph Gamble invited me into his tintype studio and darkroom again. You can see the pictures from my first visit, here. Yesterday, Joseph was finishing double-exposure large-format portraits for his memento morivanitasproject. Using a nineteenth-century tintype photographic process, Joseph is exploring modern notions of glamour through the context of mortality.

The images will be exhibited from 5-7 p.m. at Gallery 501 on March 21st. Gallery 501 is a teaching gallery at Blake High School in Tampa. The address is 1701 North Boulevard, Tampa, FL 33607. Visit the event's Facebook page to see a sample of tintypes that will exhibited and to leave comments or ask questions.

Yesterday I brought my Sony RX1 into Joseph's studio and darkroom to capture a few images of his process. This time, he was photographing my wife Katie. The portrait is a double exposure on a single tintype plate – one exposure of Katie and a second exposure of a skull. You can see how Joseph outlines Katie's face on the camera's 8x10 back plate to aid aligning the exposure of the skull.

The final results are darkly beautiful. The skull and face – and those eyes! –  merge into a single facial surface. The mortality most of us fear invades, and transforms, the presentation we expect of ourselves. We see the fact of our life and our death at once. Death is no longer forestalled. The images ask us to consider how death lives with us. Can we live in spite of death? Is death what defines life? How can we embrace our own mortality in a way that enriches the life we have left?

Joseph Gamble's tintype plates cure in preparation for his Vanitas Fair exhibit.
Joseph Gamble's tintype plates cure in preparation for his Vanitas Fair exhibit.
In the darkroom, Joseph Gamble prepares an 8x10 tintype plate for a portrait that will be in his upcoming Vanitas Fair exhibit (Sony RX1, iso 25600, 1/15 sec, f2).
In the darkroom, Joseph Gamble prepares an 8x10 tintype plate for a portrait that will be in his upcoming Vanitas Fair exhibit (Sony RX1, iso 25600, 1/15 sec, f2).
Katie sits for one of Joseph Gamble's 8x10 tintype portraits (Sony RX1, iso 1250, 1/800 sec, f2).
Katie sits for one of Joseph Gamble's 8x10 tintype portraits (Sony RX1, iso 1250, 1/800 sec, f2).
Joseph Gamble creates 8x10 tintype portraits for his Vanitas Fair exhibit (Sony RX1, iso 800, 1/25 sec, f2).
Joseph Gamble creates 8x10 tintype portraits for his Vanitas Fair exhibit (Sony RX1, iso 800, 1/25 sec, f2).
Joseph Gamble aligns the second exposure with the outline of Katie's face from the first exposure.
Joseph Gamble aligns the second exposure with the outline of Katie's face from the first exposure.
Joseph Gamble and Katie in the tintype darkroom.
Joseph Gamble and Katie in the tintype darkroom.
Joseph Gamble and Katie inspect the 8x10 tintype portrait (Sony RX1, iso 500, 1/40, f2).
Joseph Gamble and Katie inspect the 8x10 tintype portrait (Sony RX1, iso 500, 1/40, f2).
Katie inspects her 8x10 tintype portrait
Katie inspects her 8x10 tintype portrait
I study philosophy and social theory at the University of South Florida. I am also a photographer, map lover and sometimes poet.