For the second year in a row, celebrity photographer Victoria Will put down her DSLR and used a century-old technique to capture dramatic tintype portraits of celebrities at the Sundance Film Festival. Similar to last year's batch of portraits, these images are both hauntingly beautiful and utterly unique, giving modern-day stars the timeless appearance of thespians from the silent film era.
Tintypes, which date back to the 1860s, are incredibly demanding photos to capture and develop. Typically, the photographer starts by coating a sheet of metal like tin, iron, or aluminum (which Will used) with a hazardous mixture called collodion. Then the plate is placed in a silver nitrate bath, which makes it sensitive to light. While the plate is still wet, the photographer must expose it and develop it within around eight minutes with no room for error. As soon as the photo is shot, the plate is put in developer, rinsed in water, and submerged in fixer to produce the final image.
This year, Will paired an old Graflex Super D camera with powerful flashes in order to produce a huge amount of light to shorten the exposure time. Instead of having to pose for 10 minutes, the subjects only had to stand still for a fraction of a second. By pairing the old film development technique with modern technology, Will managed to solve some of the drawbacks to tintype portraiture while producing extraordinarily memorable images.
“What I love about the process is how raw it is,” the photographer told Profoto. “We live in an age of glossy magazines and overly retouched skin. But there is no lying with tintypes. You can't get rid of a few wrinkles in Photoshop.” Indeed, every mole, freckle, line, and crow's foot is highlighted in the striking portraits, further enhancing the distinct appearances of these charismatic stars.
Above: Robert Redford