ferrotypie civil-war

Atelier for collodion photography - Ferrotype, the real thing!

Ferrotype - Photograph on asphalted sheet of steel

At the time of pioneers in photography during the civil war in US from 1861 to 1865, the photographers rarely carried glass plates in their luggage. Instead, thin sheets of steel coated with so-called "Japan Black" were used as a photo-plate. This was cheaper, unbreakable and suitable for the "court bag".

When talking about tintypes at that time, only ferrotypes are meant. Today, so-called Alutypes (black anodized aluminum) are also traded as tintypes, which of course do not correspond to the historically correct description. The special flair of the ferrotypes is the incredibly black, high-gloss asphaltum of the coating.

In comparison to alutypes, original ferrotypes are much more elaborate to manufacture and can not be traded in any shop. That means the photographer has to produce the plates by his own.

Well, we succeeded in producing Ferrotypes successfully according to an original recipe of 1853 and with these plates we were hired by a historical society. The results were overwhelming!

Something about technology

Our attempts to blacken steel were numerous. The lacquer has to be resistant to solvents, acids, alkalis, heat and water. (All these factors affect the black layer in the wet plate process)

The amazing result was that no modern lacquer was sufficient.
After overcoming our shyness to cooking asphalt, covering the plates and baking the whole thing at 200 degrees Celsius, the tests were finally crowned with success.

The charm of ferrotypes is not comparable with those of alutypes. You have to see the difference "live" in front of your eyes. Unfortunately, it is not possible to make this difference clear in scans as they are used on this website ...