Tintype Portraits of Photography Students Created on Their Discarded Film Canisters

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Photographer David Emitt Adams experiments with unique metal bases in his experiments with tintype photography. Last week we shared a project in which he used abandoned tin cans found in a desert to create tintype photographs.

36 Exposures is another project of his that uses unconventional materials for creating old school photos. It’s a series of tintype photographs that were created using 35mm film canisters.

Adams came up with the idea for the project after teaching an “Introduction to Photography course.” Students in the class had learned the basics of photography using film cameras, and their work in the darkroom produced a pile of discarded film canisters.

Seeing that these canisters played a crucial role in his students’ initial understanding of photography, Adams decided to upcycle them into photographs.

Each canister was flattened from a cylinder into a rectangle and then used as the metal base for tintype portraits of the students. Each of the resulting piece looks like a flattened film canister on one side, but flip it over and you’ll see a beautiful photograph created through the labor-intensive collodion process from the 19th century.

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In addition to the tintypes themselves, Adams also created a gorgeous display case out of mahogany to store and show off the work. The case looks like a wooden box when it’s all packed up:


Open up the side, and you’ll see the collection of tintypes stored in wooden holders:

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Lift up the top of the box, and the lid becomes a stand on which the portraits can be proudly displayed:

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You can find more of Adams’ work over on his personal website.

Image credits: Photographs by David Emitt Adams and used with permission

  • David Liang

    Wow…I love it.

  • Ryan Barlow

    It’s me!! Thanks David. PS, where’s my signed print? ;)

  • vinterchaos

    Wow this is fantastic! I’m jealous.

  • Dean W. Thompson

    That case/box is the the nicest thing I have seen all week.

  • etothej

    Beautiful work, and it becomes a real art project when the display case is added. Inspiring stuff!

  • lydia V

    Great job, David!

  • Kellam Clark

    David Emitt Adams you are so cool. I love your work. My crew and I are very inspired by your creativity and ingenuity. I have read every “Popular Mechanics” magazine from the 1915’s right into the 1940’s. Your projects joyfully remind me of the series in the 1930’s that show creative and often genius ways to use a paper clip. Bottle tops?? If you ever come to NYC please look us up.

    Kellam Clark
    Barking Hand: A living tin