Posts tagged Photography
Interview: Henrietta's Eye
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Henrietta's Eye is the wet plate collodion tintype photography of Seattle-based couple Libby Bulloff and Stephen Robinson.

Libby and Stephen are also our next-door studio neighbors at 57 Biscayne! We recently had our tintype photographs taken, and it was amazing. If only cameras could talk... but this Q&A with Libby & Stephen is the next best thing!

Q: How did you get into tintype photography?
Libby first saw wet plate photography demonstrated a couple of years ago by local ambrotypist Dan Carrillo, and immediately fell in love with the visceral nature of capturing an image in chemicals on a piece of metal or glass.

Ever since being captivated by the work of Mathew Brady, Alfred Stieglitz and Walker Evans, Stephen has been fascinated with old photographic processes and the craftsmanship involved. He loves both the surreal nature and the stark honesty conveyed by large format photography.

Last year, in one of those seemingly small events that ends up deeply life-affecting, our friend Magpie Killjoy, a traveling photographer, designer, and writer, came to Seattle and taught both of us how to make tintypes using his antique camera in exchange for studio time. We were both so immediately taken with the process, and more so with the results, we threw ourselves headlong into learning more. We then spent the next two months tracking down and repairing our 1908 Seneca Black Beauty 4x5 camera, named Henrietta, building a portable darkroom in a foot locker, researching techniques and materials, and taking lots and lots of photos. We constantly experiment and try to perfect a complicated process we full-well know cannot be perfected. We especially love using old gear, from the camera to lenses, to lighting.

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Q: What is attractive to you about the method?
We are both attracted by the hand-crafted nature of this process. From start to finish, your hands touch everything. It is very intimate. Each photo is unique. Even if you shoot the same model on the same day, with same lighting and the same exposure time, each plate is different. They’re like tiny chemical paintings in this respect, each with their own beauty, nuances and imperfections. While on the surface it may seem frustrating to not be able to duplicate a photograph, we find it exhilarating and inspiring. Another aspect of creating tintypes we find attractive is that no computers or electronic devices (aside from the lights) are involved. There’s an element of magic and alchemy to the process and the resulting photograph that cannot be duplicated by modern digital photography. We create heirlooms and lasting, honest-to-goodness artifacts. Tintypes from the Civil War era are still around (and valued by collectors) so we know they will last at least 150 years. Ultimately, for us, creating tintypes is art. There’s both an art to the process, and the process allows us to create beautiful art.

Q: In your words, how does the process work?
The basic method of making a tintype can be distilled down to a couple of key steps. We use a process that is very authentic to the one popularized in the mid-1800s. First, we take a piece of enameled aluminum and coat it in chemicals that allow it to become light sensitive. Then, we carefully load it into the camera and expose it, creating a negative image directly on the metal plate. After that, we develop and stop it under a safe light in our portable dark room, and then fix it in a tray, often right before our subject’s eyes. It’s very similar to watching a Polaroid develop. We finally seal the tintype with a traditional sanderac and lavender varnish that not only protects the photo from the elements, it also smells great.

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Sitting for a tintype portrait can be quite a dramatic and unique experience. Our subjects tend to have stoic expressions on their faces, like the Victorians, because the exposure time on the portrait runs 20-45 seconds, and it is difficult to try to hold anything except a neutral expression for that long.

Q: How can folks get ahold of you to schedule a portrait session?
The best way to get ahold of us is via email at henriettas.eye@gmail.com. We’re happy to answer questions, take on special projects, and set up private photoshoots for folks who’d like to get a portrait taken. You can see some of our images at http://www.seattletintype.com.

Q: What do you like best about having a studio at 57 Biscayne?
We love being so centrally located to the heart of the Seattle historical district. It really lends itself well to the oldee-timeyness of our creative process to be surrounded by bricks and mortar that are over a hundred years old. It’s also wonderful to see other passionate artists working on their respective projects when we come in to do a shoot.

Q: What's your favorite place to eat in Seattle (and why)?
Gastropod. It is an unassuming place in SODO with a tiny kitchen, run by two unpretentious blokes who marry unconventional flavors in their cuisine and handmade beer. It’s Northwest food in the best sense. We love to spend evenings there, after we’ve worked hard in the studio, chatting with the chef and brewer about food, music, and politics, and gorging ourselves on succulent Hama Hama oysters.

Q: What's your favorite place to shop in Seattle (and why)?
We don’t have a favorite place, per se, but we love digging through antique malls, junk shops, and finding the odd treasure on Craigslist. We collect taxidermy, old medical and dental paraphernalia, Victoriana, vintage shoes, and old things built to last.

To see Henrietta in action, come see her in December!
57 BISCAYNE HOLIDAY SALE
Where? 57 Biscayne, 110 Cherry St., 2nd Floor, Seattle
When? Thursday, December 5th from 6:00 – 9:00 pm AND Saturday, December 7th from 12:00 – 5:00 pm

Interview: Dorothy, Spring 2013 Intern
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Now that I've finished interviewing our current staff, I'm excited to move outward into our wonderful Constellation community! Today's interview is with Dorothy Hunyh, Spring 2013 intern and our amazing product photographer!

Dorothy has interned with more companies than anyone I've ever met (including We Are The Rhoads, among others!) and has an inspiring amount of motivation. To see all of the projects Dorothy collaborated on while working with us, check out her internship blog.

Q: What was interning for Constellation like? How did working with letterpress change how you work now?
While in college, I had the opportunity to intern at a lot of great businesses, but I have to say that interning at Constellation was the best experience. I really felt valued and working for Sara was a complete blast. It is one thing to be working for a great company and it is definitely another to be working alongside people who truly care for your well- being and growth. I learned so much about valuing your clients as well as nurturing your relationships with them.

Working with letterpress really made me appreciate all the minuscule details that go into the process. It also really makes me think thoroughly through the design choices I make as far as how the production will be affected.

Q: Tell us about the photo shoots you've done for the new wholesale catalog. What was your favorite thing about them, and what was a challenge?
When Sara first approached me to be the photographer for Constellation’s new wholesale catalog, I was ecstatic! One of my favorite things about being a creative is seeing the outcome and I knew that this project would be something that we’d all be proud of. I loved how personal the catalog shoots were, especially to Sara and Brad and was honored that they’d include me in it. I think a challenge was planning and producing images that were of high caliber, but also were true to our vision. We really wanted the photos to be relatable to your typical Seattle-ite.

Q: You're a photographer with a graphic design degree who interned for a letterpress company. What are your plans for the future?
This is funny, because at this point in my life I really don’t know. I’ve had my own photography business for the past four years and it has been incredible, but I am really looking to expand my horizons and maybe try some new things. I would love to get design to be a part of my daily life, whether it is personal or client work. Ultimately though, I want to be helping people and I’m excited to see how my passions will play into that. Also I can't wait to be a mom.

Q: What's your favorite place to eat in Seattle (and why)?
Gosh, this is a hard question to answer because Seattle has so many great places- sorry this answer might be long. We’re lucky to live in a city that offers so much. I’m always trying new places when time and budget allows. It really depends on what type of food, but some of my go-tos would probably be Bustle on QA (for coffee and getting work done), Café Presse (croque madames are to die for), Bar Sajor (the bread), King’s Hardware (the fries) and Black Bottle (everything).

Q: What's your favorite place to shop in Seattle (and why)?
Another extremely hard question to answer, thanks Sara. Well, this isn’t really an amazing answer, but in general Nordstrom’s is always on point. However, I do love checking out all the little boutiques Seattle has. If I’m looking for gifts, I always head to Annie’s Art and Frame or Sip and Ship in Ballard, or Queen Anne Dispatch. They have the best little knick-knacks. My favorite bookstore is The Elliot Bay Book Company- I somehow always leave with a new book (even if I have a pile of unread ones at home.)

Thanks Dorothy!

Go Mighty & Photo Shoot Behind the Scenes

Hi friends. I'm stuck at home with a jacked up back this week, so let's talk about some fun things and get my mind off it. Sound good?

While I've been staying very still in my chair, I've been working on documenting some major life goals over at Go Mighty. Go Mighty is an awesome new site that i'm kind of obsessed with right now. Here's how they describe themselves: "Go Mighty is a place to do something good for yourself and for others. It allows you to focus on what you really want to accomplish in life, in steps, with people who want to help you." How cool is that!? I've been really enjoying setting goals and daydreaming about travel & life.

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Speaking of goals, Constellation is working towards a huge goal this next year: to exhibit at the 2014 National Stationery Show! You can read more about how we're pursuing that goal over on my "story" at Go Mighty. As part of that big goal, we blocked off a whole work week this month to do photo shoots around the city for our new wholesale catalog. The wonderful Dorothy Huynh is our catalog photographer, and we couldn't be happier. We love her work - she has such a rich and heartfelt visual style.  (Dorothy was also one of our Spring interns, because we are intern blessed!)

It was so much fun to visit our friends across the city, shooting in their homes (and on their docks) and hanging out! I can't show you the actual product shots yet (spoilers!), but here are some behind the scenes shots to keep you busy in the meantime.

Jenny & Mike

Jenny & Mike

Brad & I, taking a snuggle break

Brad & I, taking a snuggle break

Brad enjoying one of our "props" from  Woodinville Whiskey Co.

Brad enjoying one of our "props" from Woodinville Whiskey Co.

Lyndsey  saying hello to Molly

Lyndsey saying hello to Molly

Writing on a chalkboard next to a tiny chair

Writing on a chalkboard next to a tiny chair

Inky Hands are the Printer's Tools
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I have a confession. I'm a messy printer.

It's a relief to say that out loud.

Getting my hands dirty is part of the appeal of letterpress for me.

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I love seeing something I designed made into a photopolymer plate.

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I love mixing ink to find just the right color.

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I love the rhythm, the sound, and the feel of operating the press.

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I love seeing the image impressed into the paper. And I love that each job surprises me and teaches me something.

I love what I do.

Jenny took these process photos while I printed Sound Homebrew Supply's coasters and business cards last month. (You can find photos of the finished product here.) These photos initially appeared on Jenny's internship blog. She's done a great job with the blog, check it out!

Locket Studios
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Last week, I had the pleasure of doing a photo shoot with Locket Studios. Chris & Tara Bowden (the creative pair behind the studio), are an incredibly talented couple. She's a hair & makeup artist, and he's a wedding and portrait photographer.

They work together seamlessly to create classic, elegant, and memorable photo shoots. I'm typically not super comfortable in front of the camera, but they put me right at ease. Tara made me feel so beautiful, and Chris gave really helpful, respectful direction. They are a total joy to work with. We are blessed to call them friends, but on a completely professional level can suggest them wholeheartedly for your wedding or portrait session.

There are a few more photos from our shoot on the portrait section of their site. And on a side note - I'm so far from a model, it's funny. I'm more often found covered in grease than covered in makeup - but it's definitely a fun change to play dress up!

Vintage Finds: Brownie Hawkeye
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We were pleased to find this little beauty our our doorstep a few weeks ago from Brad's grandparents' home in Michigan. It's in great shape and came complete with flash, bulbs, and manual. (And believe it or not, they had two! We are honored to have been given one.)

Fun branding for the "Midget Flasholder."

Fun branding for the "Midget Flasholder."

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The viewfinder is a crazy contraption. You don't put your eye right up to, but look through from about a foot away. It's amazing how clear the image looks!

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The graphic design for the manual is stellar. Simple shapes, bright colors, and good type never go out of style.