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Magic of Real Film: Photographer Joni Sternbach's Tintype Portraits


Karina Rozunko wearing the Tofino inward Blue Tide together with Charlotte Shanahan wearing the Zuma inward Black Stripe. Photo past times Joni Sternbach.

At the tap of our photographic goggle box camera phones, pixels lite upward to acquire images inward our hands pretty much anywhere nosotros are together with whatever fourth dimension nosotros want. It’s piece of cake to forget that taking photos used to hold upward a lot of work. The click of a existent button, the audio of celluloid winding, the thoughtful marinating inward a bathroom of chemicals together with thence hanging to dry. Actually taking the photo? That’s the easiest move says Brooklyn, New York-based lensman Joni Sternbach.

“It's the grooming that takes the most fourth dimension together with scrutiny,” she explained. “Making for certain my chemical scientific discipline is ‘groomed,’ mixed well, aged to perfection (if exclusively it were similar a fine wine) all contribute to giving the destination effect its character.”

Joni Sternbach’s photographs using a large-format photographic goggle box camera together with the nineteenth-century wet-plate collodion procedure inward which she hand-pours the plates together with develops on place are straight off captivating. Her otherworldly tintype portraits of surfers on the shore receive got been compiled into the fine art books: “Surfland” published inward 2009 together with most late “Surf Site Tintype” published this year.

On i of Sternbach’s trips to the West coast, she met Seeababe Karina Rozunko together with her friend Charlotte Shanahan on the beach inward San Clemente (wearing Seea surf suits, naturally). The photos that resulted from their encounter took our breath away inward the textures of the print, together with how authentically vintage they appeared.

We caught upward amongst Sternbach to honour out to a greater extent than well-nigh why she loves to shoot existent photographs together with how surfers came to hold upward her subjects.

From left, Charlotte Shanahan together with Karina Rozunko taken inward San Clemente. Photo past times Joni Sternbach.

How did the portraits that you lot took of Karina Rozunko together with Charlotte Shanahan at San Onofre come upward about?

I met Karina through the surfer, Jen Smith. I was headed due south to San Diego together with San-O was on the way, thence nosotros decided to run into there. I made only a couplet of plates when 'the ranger' showed up. He took i expect at our nighttime tent together with decided nosotros were a large production together with that nosotros needed a permit.

I explained that I am an artist, non a commercial company together with that I wasn't hired past times a fellowship to construct these pictures, but that I do it all on my own. That did non faze him inward the least. He watched over us similar nosotros were teenagers well-nigh to strip naked-and skinny dip illegally inward public. It was rather ridiculous. He allowed me to accept i celluloid shot… together with to hold upward honest, if he hadn't hassled the shit out of us, I mightiness never receive got made that picture!

We establish some other spot to shoot at that was quite beautiful, filled amongst the emptiness of western imagination.

Karina Rozunko wears the Tofino. Photo past times Joni Sternbach.

Tell us well-nigh your career every bit a photographer. When did you lot start shooting together with uncovering that you lot liked photography every bit your medium of choice?

I start started taking pictures inward college. It was a required course of report at the fine art schoolhouse I attended. My start successful moving-picture exhibit was a soundless life of a cheesecake amongst a patch cutting out of it. Not that I'd suggest anyone out at that spot to base of operations a career selection on a unmarried epitome similar that, but something well-nigh how ordinary the moving-picture exhibit was, combined amongst the dark together with white chemical scientific discipline together with magic of watching the epitome educate inward the darkroom struck me together with stuck amongst me.

I switched my major from fine arts together with made a selection to hold upward a photographer. I studied amongst people who generally shot on the street together with learned to tell a really personal even out past times pointing the lens outward. My start torso of piece of job was (made over a menstruum of time) on the subway. Back inward the ‘70’s, NYC was a tough house together with photographing inward the subways was illegal. I used a tranquility range-finder photographic goggle box camera that I wore around my cervix nether my coat amongst a preset focus. I guesstimated the epitome frame based on the wide-angle lens I was using. Raising the photographic goggle box camera to my optic drew a really unlike reply from subjects, thence I tried to minimize that action.

Karina Rozunko wears the Tofino. Photo past times Joni Sternbach.

How did you lot uncovering this method that you lot currently utilisation of the wet-collodion process?

I learned the wet-collodion process, which includes the tintype from John Coffer, i midday summertime inward 1999. John is an unconventional homo who lives a 19th century life on a farm inward upstate NY. He teaches workshops on the procedure together with hosts a large jamboree on his farm every summertime for all the crazy wet-platers out at that spot inward the world.

What were your start photos using the medium?

I started shooting close the ocean, where I had been making these close-up, abstract images of the body of body of water surface, called 'Ocean Details.' Making pictures past times the shoreline was a do I was becoming committed to. The wet-plate medium has really specific sensitivities together with insensitivities that construct photographing for certain subjects challenging, withal it reads textures actually well, which meant at that spot had to hold upward a rigid dependent land amidst the landscape. I establish remnants of civilization together with life along the shoreline, thence I aptly named my start serial "Abandoned." They were haunting ambrotype together with tintype images that felt similar they could receive got been taken a hundred years ago.

Ocean details past times Joni Sternbach. 

Ocean details past times Joni Sternbach.

What fascinates you lot well-nigh it?

The medium is moisture which makes it really specific; it's super slow, thence all my exposures are relatively long. Long exposures hateful capturing fourth dimension inward motion together with that's yields unpredictable together with exciting results. It's also a mitt poured procedure thence the mitt is involved inward a agency it's non inward criterion photography. The agency I pour a plate, the agency I educate my plate, fix, rinse together with launder it, all contribute to the destination result.



Joni Sternbach - Photographer from Johnny Abegg Films on Vimeo.


How did you lot laid about taking photos of surfers?

I similar to say … that surfers came to me. Initially, I considered them interlopers into my pristine, abstract landscape. Then I began to reckon that this was a house nosotros were all interacting in, that it was a shared environs together with that it was of import for me to pay attending to that. These people (surfers) inhabited the landscape; possibly they were at that spot for a reason! To me, surfers are primal; they are thence much a move of the body of body of water landscape where I was shooting at Ditch Plains, that I am surprised I avoided them thence long. But maybe, to a greater extent than importantly is that what I am trying to do—by photographing surfers fits thence good amongst what they are trying to do—just past times existence surfers.

What is it well-nigh surf civilisation together with environs that turned out to hold upward the perfect dependent land matter?

As the serial developed, I began to sympathize this subculture of surfers every bit people, who on a regular basis, seek a connective amongst nature together with unabashedly engage inward their shout out for for joy. That inward itself was exciting together with intriguing. Making the portraits of surfers seemed to capture something that was both primitive together with contemporary. Their surfboards appeared similar symbols or totems, revealing private grapheme together with the moisture suits together with article of apparel were also symbolic, revealing time, house together with fashion. Because the photographs are positives, the text reads backwards. This affects the agency you lot sympathize the picture—glaring logos look to a greater extent than similar blueprint or hieroglyphics together with construct names are no longer prominent.

Karina Rozunko wearing the Tofino inward Blue Tide. Photo past times Joni Sternbach.

Have you lot tried surfing?

I was pushed into my start moving ridge inward Commonwealth of Australia past times Lauren Hill. She made it a fiddling fleck of a mission to acquire me on a board together with I am thence glad she did. I didn't stand upward during that brief ride but I totally got the feeling of what it's similar to ride amongst the ocean. There's null similar it.

What's unique inward your women surf subjects?

I dearest photographing together with working amongst women. I'm comfortable around them, possibly that shows. I couldn't say what just is unique inward my photographs of them, but some other photographer/surfer i time told me early on into the serial that she felt my pictures empowered women. That was dainty to hear!

Thank you lot Joni, you lot are an inspiration!

Check out Joni Sternbach’s website for to a greater extent than data well-nigh her, together with where to honour her books! For all the Californians, she volition hold upward signing her latest book, "Surf Site Tintype" on May sec at Paris Photo LA at the D.A.P. booth. 


Charlotte together with Karina inward total color. Photo past times Joni Sternbach.
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