Only you know what you don’t know.

“Only you know what you don’t know,” is a saying of Catherine’s that I’ve heard a number of times in the few months I’ve been working at CEG.  I normally wouldn’t advertise these things that I don’t know, but I figured—for the sake of the blog—I would share some of what I’ve been learning at the gallery.  Hopefully I can enlighten some of our readers and we can all get a better grasp of the things that we don’t know.

This morning, while waiting for the Grand bus, I got a text from a friend who is currently in Rochester, NY talking a workshop on the collodion process at the Scully & Osterman Studio.  He had just finished making some ambrotypes and he mentioned a photo process that I hadn’t heard of before: a ferrotype.  I got to the gallery, got out the Merriam-Webster, and discovered that there are two definitions.  The first basically states that a ferrotype is another word for a tintype, a collodion process through which a positive image is made on a thin sheet of steel or iron (not tin) that has been blackened.  I assume this is what my friend was talking about since it’s what he’s up there to learn, but I found the second definition equally interesting.  A ferrotype is also a process through which you can make a photo print glossy by laying it—while wet—facedown on a ferrotyping plate (a polished metal plate), then squeegeeing the print,  and allowing to dry.  When you peel it away it will retain a glossy finish.  There are so many photo processes that I’ve learned over the years, but I never would have learned about the use of a ferrotyping plate if I had assumed that a ferrotype was just another collodion process (i.e. tintype).

If anyone has made glossy prints by ferrotyping then I would love to hear about it.  I imagine that it is a technique seldom done any more, even by those who practice old photographic processes.  I’ll leave you with a few images by Dan Estabrook, two of which are ambrotypes and the last one is a tintype.

Interior (Heaven), 1998
Interior (Heaven), 1998 (Ambrotype in custom frame) Dan Estabrook
Smoke, Fire, 1998
Smoke, Fire, 1998 (3 Ambrotypes with Oil) Dan Estabrook
Your Wound, 1998
Your Wound, 1998 (Tintype with Oil) Dan Estabrook

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