Using a 19th century photography process called wet-plate collodion, Michael Shindler creates arresting tintype portraits of anyone who happens to wander into his studio Photobooth. Located on Valencia Street in San Francisco, Photobooth is the world’s only tintype portrait studio. About his open door policy, Shindler says, “I do not choose who I photograph, and I like the exercise of being constantly confronted with new people and having to figure out what I find interesting about them.”
Shindler spent six years learning and perfecting the wet-plate collodion process that requires the photographic material (in the case of tintypes, an enameled metal plate) to be coated, sensitized, exposed and developed within the span of about fifteen minutes. The resulting image, which is technically a negative, is made up of extremely fine silver particles that are creamy-white in color and give the photograph a rich, milky-metallic quality.
Each tintype is prepared by hand to create a single exposure. The image is then processed immediately so the subject can walk out the door with their photograph. Each plate is unique and only one copy of the image exists, which makes sitting for a tintype portrait a very special and rewarding experience.
After nearly three years and over 4,000 tintypes, Shindler will be moving on to new projects and Photobooth will be closing on March 30, 2014.