It’s been several months since I’ve published any new tintype animations here at Griffonage-Dot-Com, but I’ve continued to create them from time to time, and I think I’ve finally accumulated enough to warrant another blog post. I don’t have any novel technical breakthroughs to share this time around—all the methods I used have already been described here and here—but I believe the animations themselves are every bit as cool as anything I’ve done along these lines before, and I hope you’ll enjoy them.
In case your memory needs refreshing, let me start by noting that every tintype is unique, but that tintypes often turn up in pairs taken simultaneously through lenses mounted next to each other in a single camera. If the lenses responsible for the images were positioned side by side, we get an unintentional stereoview like this (don’t overlook the wonderfully stylized painted backdrop):
This time a vintage stereoscope wouldn’t do us much good unless we turned the images on their sides. However, an animation based on morphing can yield just as striking a 3D effect in such cases as it would in a side-by-side example—in fact, I’d say the effect is even more striking, since the vertical spacing between lenses was typically greater than the horizontal spacing, leading to a greater difference in vantage points.
Pairs of “twin” tintypes usually turn up together if they turn up at all, but the next pair is an exception: I bought the tintype on the left from one eBay dealer in June 2013 and the tintype on the right from another eBay dealer in December 2014. Note the two-dimensional piano prop with its mirror-image “Steinway” label and the strategic positioning of the subject’s hand on its faux keyboard.
I don’t know whether these two images parted ways soon after they were taken or whether they’d been separated more recently. The dealers I’ve encountered seem to take a few different approaches to “twin” tintypes: (1) sell them together, since they “go” together; (2) play up their status as “stereoscopic pairs” as a special selling point; or (3) sell them separately, because who would ever want two copies of the same thing? Option three is fairly common, so tintype pairs often get broken up on the collector’s market, particularly when they aren’t “stereoscopic.” And this particular pair is one of the non-stereoscopic ones, since the two images were taken from vantage points separated vertically rather than horizontally. But I was pleased to be able to reunite them as the basis for the following animation:
And here’s yet another pair of vertically-separated twin tintypes, examples of the popular posing-in-an-automobile novelty genre of studio portrait photography. I suspect they were originally arranged together side by side on a plate as shown below before being cut apart.
Granted, the motion of rocking back and forth isn’t such a good conceptual fit for an automobile, but someday maybe I’ll get my hands on a similar pair of tintypes showing someone posed in a fake boat—that would be something to see.
Sometimes we find a pair of tintypes taken of the same subject in the same setting, but in two slightly different poses. Usually the poses are so different from one another that it isn’t possible to morph convincingly between them: parts of the body would appear to “jump” from one position to another, spoiling the effect. But here’s a nice exception:The subject of these portraits changed her position just slightly between the two exposures, so that by morphing between the images we appear to see her gently swiveling her head and body in different directions (this might be a good exercise for alleviating neck stiffness).
If we take the position from which the image in the middle was taken as a reference point, the image on the left was taken from a position below it (foreground appears higher relative to background) and the image on the right was taken from a position to the left of it (foreground appears further right relative to background). Here’s a morphed animation incorporating all three images, bouncing from center leftward and back, downward and back, leftward and back, downward and back, and so on.
The animations I’ve shown so far all rely on interpolating intermediary frames between the original tintype images, but if we have enough “twin” tintypes to work with, we can create some pretty decent animations without needing to interpolate anything. I demonstrated this point once before using a set of nine gem tintypes, but these were split between two poses: one spanning five of the images, and the other spanning the remaining four. Judging from the subject’s clothing, I also think the images in that case must date from the very late nineteenth century. However, I’ve since acquired another group of seven gem tintype portraits of a woman who seems to suffer from amblyopia (“lazy eye”), conveniently joined in two groups of two and one group of three. This time, I believe the images may all have been taken simultaneously, and they also seem to be older—the clothing is right for the Civil War era, so let’s date them to circa 1865. Figuring out their spatial relationships to one another has been a lot like solving a jigsaw puzzle. Two of the joined groups have blackened areas in their corners that imply they must have been located at the upper right and lower left corners of the plate as originally secured in the camera. The third has a darker black strip on its left that was presumably part of the left edge of the original plate, and its vertical perspective on the subject of the portrait is closer to the “bottom” group of three than to the “top” group of two. Finally, the leftmost portrait in the “top” group seems to share a horizontal perspective with the rightmost portrait in the “bottom” group. All this points to a four-by-four arrangement on a quarter plate, like this, consistent with a common camera configuration of the era: