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Tin-type photographer Dave Rambow will present during Sturgis History Days, June 15-17, 2018.

Tin-type photographer Dave Rambow will present during Sturgis History Days, June 15-17, 2018.

Frontier photography process on display during Sturgis History Days


F.Ganje - June 13, 2018

STURGIS, SD – Get out that old box of photos and look for tin-types.  You could be a millionaire and not even know it.  Dave Rambow will be presenting “Light and Iron: Tin-Type Photography in the West” during Sturgis History Days, June 15-17, 2018.  The re-creator of what many consider a lost (but re-emerging) art-form, will explain the history and process of tin-type photography, Saturday, June 16, 2018  from 10:00am-11:00am in the city Auditorium.

“Tin-types were the common person’s photo – taken during the civil war period to the time of the 1800’s frontier,” he explains.  “It was a  process used mostly in America;  not so much in Europe.”  He added, “It wasn’t the type of photography used by the rich and famous. It was a popular alternative for those who didn’t have a lot of money.”  

Rambow, who grew up in Sturgis now works  as site manager for the Wisconsin Historical Society at the H.H. Bennett Studio in Wisconsin Dells.  He will be bringing his own  traveling dark box with lenses original  to the period of 1860-1880. He’ll also bring other tools of the tin-type trade such as the head brace.

“I’ll have a traveling dark box with me which is a large wooden box on a platform.  That’s the photo lab where I make and load the film and take the picture.  A person has to remain motionless for the process to work.  People are allowed to breathe or blink but any other movement will appear as a blur.” He adds, “I’ll also bring a head brace which was used to help the subject hold still.” along too. 

Wetplate (or tin-type) technology went out of style around 1883 when George Eastman, founder of the Eastman Kodak Company, invented dry negatives and photography went mainstream. Rambow encourages people to share their tin-types and stories during his program on Saturday.   You can also preserve history with your own tin-type on Sunday, June 17, 2018 on the Ft. Meade grounds where Rambow will be taking pictures for a fee.  Find out more about his work on line and on Facebook

Oh…and that reference to becoming a millionaire? In 2011, a tin-type of Billy the Kid sold at auction for $2.3 million dollars.  “We know there were four made,” says Rambow. “Unless they were destroyed, there are three others floating around out there, somewhere.”



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