Week 41 - 2015

Light-hearted partying

Unknown photographer, unknown date, tintype. Preus museum's collection

Light-hearted partying

The picture is quite dark, but the motif is bright and light-hearted—two women smile toward the camera, and they have a bottle on the table and glasses in hand. One of the women has been moving and appears a little blurred and dissolute.


We don't know who took the picture, when it was taken or where. But we know that it is a tintype (or ferrotype). "Ferro" means iron, and the photograph is on a thin iron sheet. This the less prosperous relative of the shiningly bright and sharply detailed daguerreotype that was the first commercial photographic process, presented on a gleamingly polished silver sheet and sealed in a beautiful case. The tintypes were inexpensive and could be manufactured quickly, and were perfectly suited for marketplaces and squares where many people gathered. The picture of the happy women is probably from the end of the 1800s.


The selfie is a relatively new concept, but the desire to see depictions of oneself are probably as old as people themselves.