The Living Tin: Making Movies Using Only Collodion Tintype Photography

If you don’t really think about it, it’s easy to take video for granted. After all, you can pull out your cell phone and be recording video in a few seconds flat (even fewer if you have Pressy). But what if you were limited to older photographic techniques? No, we don’t mean film, we mean wet plate photography.

Capturing even a 12fps animation for only a few seconds would seem an enormous task, and yet, that’s exactly what director Kellam Clark and his 40-person crew — altogether The Living Tin — are doing. They’re shooting video made entirely of collodion tintypes.

Let that sink in for a second. Think about how long it takes to photograph and develop a single plate, and then multiply that by 12 plates for every second of video. The video at the top is made up of over 100 plates, synced to sound as best as they could.

Below, we have another earlier attempt. It was part of a music video they’re working on for song “The Barking Hand” by the band DAS:

Each of the videos they put up on Vimeo is titled the same: “CONTINUITY” followed by the date. As Clark explains in the description, “All of our test are called CONTINUITY because at the end of the day all the issues we are learning to deal with effect the continuity of the final piece.”

The ultimate goal, says Clark, is an impossible one by his reckoning. “Our goal is to make a normal looking film, which is almost certainly not possible,” says Clark. “But that goal guides us in our problem solving process and helps maintain our standards in a crew made of over 40 people.”

To keep up with them as they continue on this crazy quest, be sure to head over to The Living Tin Vimeo page and keep an eye out for updates.

  • Alex Tardif

    Sorry dudes, I’d like to use the phrase “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should” for the first time in my life. I get the whole problem solving motivation behind the project, but it’s still pretty silly.

  • Fernando Callo

    Great! I like a lot the tintype process, I’m even doing a research for a college project.

  • Monteraz

    Too easy… long exposures on cans or bust

  • Zos Xavius

    I have an idea! Lets make a video purely out of mosaics. So for each frame you would have to lay out a whole new mosaic. Not time consuming enough? Ok, lets do a film with carved rock!

  • Kellam Clark

    Hey Guys,

    Kellam Clark here… The director of Barking Hand The Living Tin. In part I understand your skepticism….. but it is not as Sisyphean as you may think. We are shooting a tintype every 40 seconds at our best rate, and the average is every 55 seconds. Our shoot is scheduled for 14 days, Three days the pre-shoot, two days the green screen, seven days collodion and two days to mess up…… Honestly we were hoping to get more support from the alternative photography community. There are so may cool things about this project. I think if the actual production the seven days that we are filming tintypes as a volcanic eruption of historic artifacts. In 200 years when we are all off into the long sleep. These tintypes will be a fixture of time a point marked by our will and effort. People will own and and find these tintypes in the junk shops and antique stores of the future. We can all be a part of that right now… That’s cool

    Also I love the interaction that our tins have with modern technology. We have been promised that technology will set us free and yet it seems to keep us busy in new ways. However when we find ourselves aided by technology in this process there is very symbiotic relationship between the old and the new that creates an door way into something completely original. If it was the year 1850 this project would be like the mosaic that Zos speaks of or the “silly-ness” that Alex speaks of for sure. An exercise in moving tons of dirt with spoons but with the systems that we have developed it is totally not. In short “people think that we are crazy… but look how cool this is” I can talk to you form some sort of alternate collodion universe. And it really does exist in tin. That’s what I love. If you film it… it does exist………

    All my best and keep the comments coming we love feedback.

    Kellam Clark
    Director of
    Barking Hand: A Living Tin