had all the plates after 2015, I thought that it felt
like a complete body of work and that it’d be
fun to share it with more people, but I wasn’t actively looking or pitching it to publishers. I met
David Carol before he and ashly Stohl began
Peanut Press, and we became good friends.
They approached me in late 2015, and right
away in just talking to David, he got my vision
for it. I didn’t want it to be very large, I didn’t
want it to be a big coffeetable book, because
to me, the plates are really intimate. When you
hold a plate, you turn it around and look at it
in different light, see how the light reflects on
them. There’s a 3D nature to them. The dilemma then became, how do you do that with a
book? We spent about six months of trial and
error printing. I was never rushed, it was never about meeting some hard deadline, it was
just about getting it right. We just didn’t want
it to be a book of photographs of tintypes, you
know what I mean? So often I see tintypes and
I know there’s a magic to them that they’ve lost.
In the end, we came up with a formula that’s not
contaminate it, but there is an element of sur-
prise that’s sort of that happy accident thing.”
How much direction were you giving?
VW: I only had the opportunity to push the
shutter once with the tintypes, so I had to be
very deliberate and articulate what I was looking for in a different way than with my digital
pictures. I really had to dial in how I directed,
and that sort of exercise changed the way I
shoot my digital pictures now. I was surprised
by that. a lot of these people are actors, so they
liked to take on a persona for their tintype. I remember Maggie Gyllenhaal
(on the book’s cover) said, “I’m thinking of being a civil war widow,” because when she looked at the plates,
that’s what she saw. and other people
just really wanted to be comfortable.
People would put their hands in a way
that they could hold them.
What were some of their
VW: They gasped, because you do
look different. you’re obviously unretouched. The tintypes can be very
flattering, but they’re not forgiving,
and most people embraced that. This
particular group of people see themselves done up with hair and makeup
and perfectly retouched in magazines
all the time, so this was fun for them.
I remember Kurt russell saw his and
couldn’t believe how much he looked
like his grandfather.
Yes, tintypes are really
transporting in that way.
VW: They are, there’s almost a story
to them and to what the plate is picking up. If you have a few freckles on your face,
they will really show because the uV light picks
up the red, and you’ll see things that you don’t
even really notice on a day-to-day basis. One of
my favorite plates is julianne nicholson—she’s
a redhead with stunning freckles. They sort of
brought a richness and a depth to the image.
When did you decide to do the book?
VW: When I started this, I had never anticipated
that it would become a book, but then once I
PRE-PRESS: THE ESSENTIAL STEP
grayscale because there are all these tones—a
warmth, a cyan that needs to come out. I was
so thrilled when I actually saw them bound and
printed. That magic is definitely there.
How many portraits did you have to work
VW: Oh, boy. Probably between 200 and 300.
and I put them all in the hands of Elizabeth
avedon. David and ashly know her, and I just
asked if she’d be willing to help. I was having
a really hard time making an edit, curating it in
the right way, and Elizabeth graciously agreed. She sat with it for a long
time, but what she presented to me
was what I ended up going with.
Where did the title come from?
VW: I actually have to give my dad
credit for that. He said, “Describe what
a tintype is to me.” He knows, but he
wanted to hear the elevator pitch. I
said it was about bringing something
from the past into the future, having
a modern take on an old process. He
immediately quoted The Great Gats-by: “So we beat on, boats against the
current, borne back ceaselessly into
the past.” Some people might think
it means a rebirth, as in “born,” but
“borne” is the past participle of “to
bear” or “to carry,” and I thought that
worked really well, that we’re carrying
this into the future. your past is such
a part of your future, how it informs
where you go, and as an artist, everything I’ve learned and experienced
informs my art going forward.
Do you think you’ll ever pick up
VW: absolutely. I took a little break, but I have
been doing them again. I’m back. I don’t know
how that’s going to go, but I just love getting
my hands dirty. Lately, I’ve been doing tintypes
of my children. I have a 2-and-a-half-year-old
boy. actually, the very last page of the book is
a tintype I made of him.
ABOVE: Jason Momoa wrote the book’s foreword,
after becoming friends with Will at Sundance.
“We had to decide how to incorporate a silver metallic ink into the printing without making it look gimmicky or cheap. The key was to
mimic a tintype without the viewer focusing on the process before Victoria's images. joe Chanin—a pre-press manager with over 30
years of experience, a true expert—and Meridian Printing ran tests so we could confirm exactly the look we were going for on the actual
paper with the actual inks. This way, when we printed the actual book, there were no surprises.” — David Carol, Peanut Press