There is nothing quite like the haunting and imperfect beauty of tintype photography. The process, which is equal parts skillful magic, mad science and extreme lighting, is still one of the most gripping windows into a subject's soul.
It is because of this mystique that Austin-based photographer Adrian Whipp fell in love with tintype. Trained in analog photography in his native England, Whipp's became so dedicated to perfecting the trade that he was compelled to quit his day job and open Lumiere Tintype
The tintype process, which is equal parts skillful magic, mad science and extreme lighting, is still one of the most gripping windows into a subject's soul.
Housed in a rustic trailer built by Whipp and composed of reclaimed materials, palettes and odds and ends from Habitat for Humanity, the entire operation — studio, dark room and sales — take place in the transportable space.
Though still in its infancy, Lumiere's business is booming, particularly since he moved it into the backyard of swanky East Austin eatery Justine's Brasserie. Whipp keeps his door open six evenings a week from 6 pm to 2 am — he's closed on Tuesdays —and there is a constant rotation of new subjects and looky-loos curious about the process.
What has made Lumiere Tintype successful in such a short period of time, besides Whipp's perfection of the craft, is that he is one of the few active tintype photographers in Austin and one of the few in the nation who keeps his prices affordable. Whereas many tintype photographers charge a premium for tintype sessions (hundreds of dollars for a single photo), Whipp charges $40 for a 5" x 7" individual photograph or $80 for an 8"x 10." The customer receives not only a beautiful physical tintype photograph, but digital copies as well.
Individual portraits are not Lumiere's only specialty: photography packages include couples and animal portraits as well. Whipp points out that years ago, pet portraits would have been difficult to photograph with his method due to long exposure times, but advancements in the process have been a "game changer." Whipp will also do reshoots if the subject isn't 100 percent satisfied with the photo, at no additional cost.
This is not to say that the new process is easy. One of the toughest parts of tintype photography is making the photos "consistent and reliable," says Whipp. Once a photo is taken, Whipp hustles to develop, wash, dry and varnish your tintype photo so you can walk out of his studio within 45 minutes.
Whipp is not the only mastermind pulling the strings. His wife, Loren, is his partner in the studio. Though not trained in photography herself, Loren has an "incredible creative eye," according to Whipp.
The duo's future plans include traveling the country in their magical tintype machine, but in the meantime, they're excited that their business has been fitting well into Austin's creative landscape. Whipp is proud of his work and subjects, a fact that is readily apparent in the photographs themselves – as is the fact that he is very good at what he does.